On small rebellions and small school ties

“Daddy, can I wear a tie to school?”

First School TieWhat?

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

Easter planets

Atheist Easter bonnet

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.

  • Adam Tinworth
    September 17, 2014

    I’ve often mused that the best way to create religious people is to raise ’em atheist – and vice versa. Be interesting to see the journey of the children of a largely secular society right now.

    • thirstforwine
      September 17, 2014

      Exactly! How best to rebel against an atheist upbringing than to join a religion? At least I’d have the consolation that it was a choice, I think. Of course the other reaction in society is for the rump of certain religions to become more extreme (witness the rise of Creationism), so my own hope is that it becomes less likely.

  • Reka Haros
    September 17, 2014

    I appreciate your discussion both on religion and on wine consumption in front of kids. My kids have an Atheist mom and a Catholic dad. They go to a Catholic school and they question a lot of what is taught. In Italy it is difficult to avoid religion. I believe that the best is to keep a good equilibrium between reality and fairy tale stories until they are big enough to stop fantasizing about a world that doesn’t exist. Same applies to wine consumption. We produce wine, and they see the process of how a grape turns into wine, and they are growing up running through our vines. It is important to show how we consume it and what it represents on a daily basis. Once they get to the right age for consuming alcoholic drinks they will know better, hopefully.

    • thirstforwine
      September 17, 2014

      Thanks Reka – always interesting to consider parenting and alcohol (and religion I guess) from a producer’s perspective. It comes down to responsibility – ours, and what we teach them to take for themselves. I get my kids to explore their sense of smell with wines, a sense far too few kids really get to play with. In fact, aged 7, my daughter was asked by her teacher, “Name something you are good at” … he wasn’t expecting “Sniffing wine”, I can guarantee that 😉

  • Alex
    September 17, 2014

    I think it’s important to give children exposure and experience. While I grew up in an atheist/agnostic household I did have a religious (CoE) schooling – mainly because it was what fell in line my parents’ educational ideals. I value massively what I learn about Christianity (& at high school other religions) at school because I know what it is I don’t believe.

    Same with wine – I hope that we raise our son with an awareness, appreciation & understanding of wine (rather hard to avoid in South Australia, I’d have thought). And then he can make his own choices. I’m sure he’ll go to uni & drink cheap beer. Just as long as it’s not cheap cider!

    • thirstforwine
      September 17, 2014

      absolutely! Christian stories are important to our culture, and I want the kids to understand them, naturally, but also to put them in their proper context. I’m not at all convinced about the state subsidising religious education however (but that is quite another story). I’m quite certain my kids will do what all kids, including myself, do as they grow up. Hopefully, however, by equipping them with an active sense of taste and smell I can encourage them not to linger too long over the really cheap stuff, and to find more rewarding ways to explore. Being “the wine guy” at University (however lacking in actual skills that I was) had its benefits, I can tell you