“Daddy, can I wear a tie to school?”
If you’d asked me what my son could possibly ask me about school that would startle me, this would not even have been on the list. It was unimaginable.
He’s only 6 and at a state primary school that has a uniform policy, but nothing too strict. This is South East London, not Eton. Why would a 6 year-old suddenly want to wear a tie, you might ask? Peer pressure? Influence of celebrity? Is it just a bit of harmless experimentation?
“Yes darling, Daddy did do the tie thing, but it was years ago and I know better now. It seemed OK at the time, but I told your mother that I gave all that up when we had you kids. I don’t do ties any more.”
I’ve only worn a tie twice or so since he was born. It is not a symbol of anything in particular about our relationship or he’d be wearing flowery shirts instead – but that’s another story.
What is interesting is that it is precisely because very few others in school wear ties (the fake, elasticated types; health & safety you know!) that it seems attractive. One classmate decided to wear one, and now my son wants to. Not because it is common, but because when he looks around, this looks new, different and cool. Worth a try.
I think it is a natural instinct in kids to explore boundaries and try something new on for size; to take a small step towards his own space and establish his independence. He’s rebelling, … in a small way.
Beware of what you give your kids to rebel against
My wife and I have been aware of this issue for a long time. As an atheist household with religious families, we were prepared for questions like; “why wasn’t I baptised?” or to deal with the slightly frustrating “I learned at school that God made the world in 7 days” ( … “well darling, that is just a ‘story’ some people tell”). Helping to design his Solar System Easter Bonnet, rather than cover it with fluffy chicks and eggs, was fun too.
However, there are times when the allure of church events has intrigued the kids, such as a memorable experience of listening to bell-ringing in Southwark Cathedral at Christmas with my daughter. It was sublime.
It is our job to remind them what sitting through a long service is like, and … quoting the wonderful Tim Minchin, that:
“Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords, but the lyrics are dodgy” (from White Wine in the Sun)
If we keep them away entirely, they’ll miss the full context, and the allure of those cool, melodic highlights might seem overly appealing.
And what about wine too? Drinking to excess in front of your kids is wrong, it sets the wrong example and creates a terrible model for them. However, hiding consumption of alcohol from your kids can also be damaging. I believe it is important that they see how we, as parents, can enjoy wine in its broadest sense, by drinking it, sniffing it, talking about labels, and telling them about the country or region it comes from. It gives them a degree of context for their own concept of alcohol and why we drink it. It becomes a normal part of life, something to be taken in their stride and not an object to use to rebel with. When wine is so much part of your life, it actually helps to make it a little, carefully managed, part of theirs too.
I just didn’t expect to be discussing this with a little boy in a tie.
If you want to try the wine equivalent of the school boy in his tie, check this out:
Alamos Malbec 2013, £8.99 (but currently £5.99 at Majestic if you buy 2 bottles)
This is a young, fun-seeking wine but dressed up well with elegant winemaking, and also great packaging, like a smart new school tie – or at least the wine equivalent – the screwcap. Approachable now, will probably get more serious as it ages.