Friday, February 20, 2015

On pajamas and social norms

Afternoon snack with D in a jedi costume and Q in his footy pjs.

I just saw facebook thread among parents over whether or not it's ok for kids to want to wear pajamas during the day, like to school. The original poster was venting about having a huge fight with her kid over wearing pjs, and the kid ended up getting dropped off at school in her pjs after all, with "the most boring clothes I could find" for her to change into once she decided to do so. Today my 4yo went to preschool wearing his fleece footy pjs for the second time this week-- unconventional, sure, but he's 4 and he's comfortable, and what does it really matter, anyway? But people felt like it's really important to abide by these rules and conventions about what sorts of clothing is appropriate.

It got me thinking about the question of socialization that so often gets thrown at homeschoolers. People mean a whole range of things by "socialization" but at least one of the meanings is learning the established rules of polite society and abiding by them. Many worry that by homeschooling, kids don't learn these rules, which makes them socially awkward and unable to navigate the world like they're supposed to.

But the thing is, I don't think homeschoolers don't learn these rules. I think they get the chance to really examine and question these rules and realize that most of them are completely arbitrary, and that they have the freedom not to follow them if they don't want to.

Maybe we lose something by refusing to follow norms that don't make sense to us. But we gain something, too. This morning I could have demanded that Q change into daytime clothes. It would have undoubtedly turned into a fight, an unnecessary power struggle that ruined both our mornings. Why? Surely by the time he is a grown-up he will learn about the unwritten rules of dress codes, even if I don't force him to abide by them at this young age. Why waste that energy and damage our relationship clothes?

[Aside: one of the things I'm loving about growing older is realizing that I don't have to care what other people think, I can do what feels good and right to me regardless of judgement. That, in short, I don't have to follow social conventions that don't make sense to me, in favor of ones that do. How liberating it is to realize this, now in my 30s. How sad that it took this long, that I wasted so many years fretting and feeling insecure. How amazing it would have been to have felt this freedom all along.]

Every parent has to choose the battles they are willing to fight with their kids, and I don't mean to make value judgements on others' choices though I'm sure that's what it sounds like. Life with a 4yo is tumultuous and rocky enough as it is, and I'm happy to let go of stuff that doesn't really matter in order to help us have happier days.

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