It is at gatherings of unschooling families that kids of all ages are free to express their outward appearance without negative judgement or comment. They are free to be themselves and this happens so organically that it ends up being one of the greatest fringe benefits of attending such a get together.
Of course, our kids know no other way. They wear clothes that make them feel good. They brush their hair when it is no longer comfortable to lie down rather than for the sole purpose of not getting looks and comments in public. They go months without wearing shoes. On the way home from the conference, stopping to get milk, a cashier smiled at Fergus and said that she liked “her bed-head”. The kids reactions were typical - Ferg ignored her and Effie gave me a big knowing grin. Today, they don’t care. In the future, they not only will not care, they will be even more sure of who they are. This is not to say that they won’t take care of themselves - there is a massive gulf between not caring what others think and not giving a shit* about yourself.
Hey, our family gets a tonne of sneery-faced looks out there in the real world. I grew up trying my damnest not to get noticed so this is something I can’t seem to shake from my mind. Not that it bothers me as much as I’m just aware of it and since I sneer with the best of them I often reciprocate anyway. I don’t feel too guilty about this but I do feel guilty for giving sideways glances at, for example, those families dolled up and dressed to the nines and thereby pre-judging strangers the same way people pre-judge us. I shall work on that. The greater public can continue being ignorant, but I shall work on that. Ha!
Last Thursday, at the office, I wore the wonderful combination of dress pants, black socks and white sneakers. Not a look I would normally covet, but the best I could come up with in a pinch given that I spent the first four hours of the day in one black dress shoe and one brown dress shoe. It’s not even dark out in the morning these days when I leave the house so I don’t know what was going on there - like the day a few weeks back when I wore a golf shirt inside out.
I’m no fashion plate - obviously - but over the past few years I have always had this thought in the back of my mind that, when out in public with the kiddos, I had to somehow compensate for their often “natural” look. At the hand of what I guess are my own insecurities and lack of confidence, I thought that if my hair was sort of neat and my clothes matched then perhaps people would not automatically assume we were hobos or a band of gypsies (nothing against hobos or gypsies since I’m positive that they’re good people). I still want to shout out loud “These kids are not neglected. They are the opposite of neglected!!!” But the perhaps-not-so-odd thing is, is that my kids, through their own built-up confidence in who they are, and therefore what they wear and how they look, are slowly influencing how I feel about myself. To the extent that by the end of day Thursday I was quite comfortable in my little white-shoed getup. Perhaps one day I'll be comfortable in mismatched shoes. Can’t wait for the looks when I wear my pj’s to the office.
*Gillian cussed during her conference talk so I’m giving it a go here!