I got a bit of a bollocking last night. I got home from work and a rather grumpy-faced Sausage said “Mummy, I still have a white t-shirt in my P.E. kit”. Her kit got sent home for the Christmas hols and I dutifully washed it, ready to go back. Only, on the Tuesday of her first week back, P.E. day, I realised that I’d not gathered all of the items up and put them in her bag and said-items were now spread far and wide throughout my chaotic house. I managed to locate her shorts, drummed up a pair of white socks and dug her plimsols out from under a pile of new toys, but the yellow, logo-embroidered t-shirt was nowhere to be found. In desperation I shoved a plain white v-neck into the bag, knowing that this was just as acceptable under the school’s uniform code, with promises to Sausage to replace it with the yellow one later that week.
Obviously, I forgot. Skip forward to today and Sausage has had to endure four whole sessions of Physical Education in a white t-shirt and, apparently, this just isn’t good enough.
Having been previously oblivious to the importance of the yellow t-shirt, I enquired as to whether she’d been told off for wearing a white t-shirt instead.
“No” was her reply.
Hmm. So, I asked, does anyone else wear a white top?
“Yes, the twins do”
Right, so if you’re the same as the twins, what’s the problem?
“Because everyone else wears yellow and I want to be the same as everyone else” she said.
And suddenly, it all became clear and my childhood came flooding back to me. I think, as an adult, we get so caught up in defining ourselves as one thing or another that we forget that, for the kids, it’s mostly about fitting in. Conformity is key and anything different will have you singled out. It’s like an innate survival instinct.
As an adult, and even as a teen to an extent, being ‘a bit different’ can be a great thing. But to a child, it’s the worst thing in the world and it’s suddenly become clear that it’s our jobs, as parents, to do what we can to facilitate that conformity.
When I was a youth (around 11 or 12), the Adidas track suit was king and if your trainers weren’t Reebok or Nike, you were a total loser. I got bought a black Adidas track suit with white stripes and I lived in that bloody thing until it was swinging around my ankles. But, it was a uniform and it fitted in with what everyone else was doing. That track suit got me through some tough times.
So, tonight after work, I’ll be going home, searching through the ironing pile and getting the yellow t-shirt ready for tomorrow, when I’ll extract the offending white garment from Sausage’s satchel and make the world, her world, right again. Because, while conformity might not be my cup of tea, for the moment it’s everything to Sausage and that’s just fine.