A Change of Clothes

Earlier today I had a conversation with a client about Daena Ross’ cd on the Twelve Senses (read my review here). This is an enormously important topic with important ramifications for the health of our children – and we will be having a study of the Twelve Senses led by yours truly starting on 29 October (2007)on my on line discussion forum (see the Christopherus homepage for more details about the forum).
 
Anyway…. we were talking about transitions and forms for her and her family of young children and I started to think about the fact that after we finished speaking I would make lunch for my husband and I – and that before I did this I would put on my apron. And so I began to tell her about when I wear my apron, how I used an apron when I was a Camphill housemother – and then expanded to talk about children and having clothes for them for various events – this is what led back to Daena Ross’ talk.
 
Let me share here…
 
When I am doing Christopherus work, I just wear my normal clothes and I am totally focused on whatever task it is I have to hand. I might be doing research for a book; I might be writing a chapter; I might be writing here on my blog or contributing to the conversation on the forum; I might be talking to a client on the phone. I am in Christopherus work mode and that is what I am dressed for.
 
At around 3’o’clock I anticipate my youngest sons’ arrival back from high school (my eldest will be upstairs studying for his British exams). I put my apron on. I am now in a different role – instead of walking past the dishes which need to be washed in the kitchen as I had earlier when I was in Christopherus mode and which I did not even flick my eye toward because they have nothing to do with Christopherus, I now take in the fact of those dishes and perhaps start to wash them. Or decide to do them later. But the point is, that now that I have my apron on, I am in the role to care for the house and for my family and that is where my awareness is. Christopherus is forgotten – I am now fully in the role as a homemaker.
 
By using an apron, I use a prop, as it were, to remind myself or bring attention to the various things I do in my life. Instead of going crazy trying to do everything at once, I can give different things the attention they need at the right time – and my apron is one way to help myself do this.
 
Even before we had Christopherus, when my sons were younger and no one was at school, there were definitely times when the apron was put on – I would be cleaning the house, cooking or doing other household chores. My focus was there – then the apron would come off and we’d have a story or make a craft or whatever else it was that we were doing.
 
Now I don’t know if this sounds counter to some of you to what I usually say – the kind of “let’s live our lives all together and no school at home” kind of thing. But I don’t see it as contradicting that at all. It’s about being conscious – and about finding a way to bring one’s full attention to matters at hand when one chooses – when one puts that apron on – and then at other times choosing to have one’s consciousness elsewhere.
 
Related to this is having different clothes for different events. And that goes for children. It seems odd to me that many adults I know take it for granted that they will dress up when they go to a restaurant but do not require that their children do so. Or even Church!! When my family goes to Church we dress for Church – but this is not universal. And I must be honest – it pains me to see children at Church in their jeans, in their playclothes.
 
Why? Because they then have not been required to make that inner gesture of pulling themselves into a different mood, a different consciousness for playtime and then for something special like Church (or Temple or the Mosque) or, yet again, for going out to a restaurant or a museum or similar. They are not helped to realize “this is something special – we act differently here.”
 
And again, we adults know this and do this!! We don’t expect our friends or relations to lounge about in a restaurant and put their feet up and scratch and whatever in a restaurant as they might do at home – and so we do our hair, put on nice clothes etc etc. But yet often parents don’t help their children to have this same experience – instead they let them wear whatever they happen to be wearing. And then are surprised perhaps that it can be hard to help the children behave properly during the special outing.
 
Back to Daena Ross – she has really interesting things to say about this on her recording. She talks about what it means for a child to have playclothes, nice clothes and best clothes and what it means for them as a soul gesture to have to be awake to the differences that these different sets of clothes require. Children should have clothes that can get ripped and filthy – but they should also have nice clothes for going out in – and then have that cue that this is not the time to be swinging from the trees or racing about. And then when it is time to do something really special, to attend a House of Worship, best clothes are put on and the child learns – not because he is being chastised or told off  but because the clothes require it – to adjust himself and his behavior accordingly.

Posted on September 28, 2007 in Children and Society, Family Life and Parenting

COMMENTS
  • Sumihyeh Aboosaiedi says:

    Dear Donna:
    I totally agree with this concept of having a different outfit to signify to a child what type of environment they are entering, and consequently, what level of reverence or playfulness, they are permitted/encouraged to exhibit. The problem with this is not the expense of having “special” clothing, but more that many Americans have confused have confused honesty, frankness, bluntness, etc. with being true to oneself. there is no in-breath contrasting with an out-breath to life. For example, consider how much money is spent on expensive, name-brand play clothes (which are specifically meant to resemble gangter clothing) that are meant to literally buy their children acceptance in a neighborhood or school group. After such a large sum is spent on the outfit, parents may believe that it is appropriate for a special place, even for a worship service. They are equating “special” with “expensive”. In addition, consider the current notion in correct parenting that everything is play, everything should be fun and enjoyed by the child. She has no notion of being required to sit down and be reverent at certain times (unless she is one of the minority who are excessively forced into adult oriented situations in another, different attempt to exhibit the socio-economic level of her parents’ success).
    I need to cut this short, as I don’t think there is space for an article of my own here (LOL!)
    Believe me, I understand the pressure that can be felt by the need to purchase a “special” outfit that might get used only 2 or 3 times before it is outgrown. I have discovered that second hand stores are a great resource for those times. Alternatively, the difference between play, good and special clothes need be no more elaborate than the transition from clothes that don’t matter if they get stained/torn, to a button up shirt and khakis to the oh-so-special white shirt that is only used for the very special-est times when the child knows that he must behave or have the tell-tale stains to announce his poor behavior!
    Finally I have observed that there is much more variety in the types of clothing available for girls, versus what is available for young boys. Unless you want to spend bigbucks (or get from the second hand stores) on traditional “preppie” style but-up shirts and pants that don’t have baggy seats & a barrage of pockets, your options are t-shirts with rude/annoying statements/images printed on the fronts and pre-frayed jeans.

  • Sumihyeh Aboosaiedi says:

    Dear Donna:
    Beg your pardon, but I’m on a roll here:
    furthermore in regard to the 3 levels of children’s clothing, although those special outfits don’t usually fit long enough to be downgraded to the play pile for the original owner, it can easily serve that function for a younger sibling. I am a great believer in the nicer tshirts or pollo shirts that were purchased for “nice” for the summer, once they’re stained become the underlayers of the winter and no one’s the wiser! In my opinion, that’s what vests were invented for–to cover up the stains that young men (and sometimes older ones, as well!) accrue on their shirt fronts!
    Alternatively I once took long sleeved t-shirts that were still perfectly good, except for the very noticeable stain that had located itself front and center and I found a kid-acceptable fabric (ok, I confess, it was a Batman logo fabric) and I cut out the little oval that perfectly fit over the stain and zigzagged it in place and now his plain t-shirt was a hand logo-ed t-shirt and he was the hit of the kindergarten!
    When else in their lives will they have the freedom to play and get dirty (unless they become archeologists)? They shouldn’t have to be colored coordinated and matching for play dates at this stage of their lives. that desire to dress to impress will hit them soon enough anyway, no need to foster it or rush it. This is playtime we’re talking about!

  • Diane says:

    Clothing, how important that is! I remember a friend who worked out of his home telling me years ago that he always put on a jacket and tie before sitting down to his desk. That put him in the proper place to perform his work. As someone who also worked at home for a long time, I know that those images of folks getting work done in the pjs is not correct. Those of us who truly work at home to get professional things done over the long haul, not just to get through an illness, will be quite clear about needing to differentiate, and that differentiation is aided by attire.
    I have always made a point of purchasing a suit for my son and a dressy dress for my daughter. These are worn at church. They are the only children who dress this way, which makes it extremely difficult! My son has social issues and has a hard time fitting in. Having to wear a suit does not help when no one else does this, however, we have talked about it being a way to show outward respect for God. This means a lot to them.
    When my children were little, I too used an apron a lot, and interestingly enough, I have gone back to doing it again. It feels right, and also has the effect which it was originally intended – it keeps my other clothes clean!
    If one thinks back to our ancesters who wore many layers of clothing all year long, the real reason for this was cleanliness. The outer garmet could be washed more often than those underneath. Hats and bonnets were to keep our hair clean since washing was limited, especially in the colder monthes! clothes changing will help us keep cleaner and differentiate between cleaning the coop and sitting down to dinner!
    Diane

  • donna simmons says:

    Thank you both for your comments! This is a subject which is quite foreign to many people but you both have obviously considered its implications in your own families!

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