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I'll Wear My Pajamas to School Drop-off If I Damn Well Please

Photograph by Twenty20

Clearly it's a good thing I don't live in Darlington, England. The headteacher at Skerne Park Academy wrote a letter to parents requesting they not wear pajamas while dropping their kids off at school.

According to the BBC, Kate Chisholm asked them to set a better example.

"I'm not trying to tell people what to do with their lives," Chisholm said, "but I just think having a really good role model first thing in the morning, getting yourself up, getting yourself dressed, ready for business, out to school is a really good example to set."

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Look, I work from home—on the couch—and have no need to wear more than a T-shirt and pair of shorts, even in the winter, hell even in Colorado, where we live.

When I pick my younger daughter up each afternoon, I'm invariably wearing the same T-shirt and shorts, plus a down jacket and pair of knee-high Hunter boots that I've slipped on as I walk out the door. To be sure, it's a look that doesn't win me any style points, although I've long since stopped caring what anyone thinks of how I look. It's one of those privileges afforded to human beings of a certain age, which is to say: any age at all.

Our esteem for each other shouldn't be bound to our wardrobe, but to internal qualities—to being honest, compassionate, kind and hard working.

What's more important to me is being there for her—not how I look. My younger daughter is in her last year of preschool, and as the afternoons grow increasingly lighter, I'm arriving to pick her up each day just a little bit earlier, savoring the remaining months of her running into my arms to greet me while proudly shoving a solar system drawing (that looks like a group of confused pyramids) in my face.

Likewise, as long as my kids are dressed appropriately for the weather, I don't really care what they wear to school. I pick my battles with my children, and clothing is not among them.

An ongoing dialogue in our home is that we we can't control what other people do, but we can control our own actions and make choices we know to be smart ones. If what I wear sets a bad example for my kids, then I'll feel as if I've established a baseline that is, well, off base.

I'm not sure if Chisholm is the parent of young children, but as a mom, I can say that I feel abundantly comfortable with the example I've set. I prioritize a healthy bedtime, wake my kids up at a reasonable hour, ensure they're dressed, well-fed, have their hair and teeth brushed, get them to school on time and then get on with my own work.

My top concern is that my kids see that while I work full-time, it's still important for me to be able to be home with them after school. I want my kids to observe my husband and me happily married, showing respect for each other, and him loving me unconditionally, despite my inclination to wear comfortable clothes instead of couture. Our esteem for each other shouldn't be bound to our wardrobe, but to internal qualities—to being honest, compassionate, kind and hard working.

There's nothing wrong with a school principal wanting to raise standards for the students in their charge, but that can be done without clothes-shaming parents.

Should Mark Zuckerberg choose to wear something other than T-shirts and hoodies to job? Will his wardrobe impede his ability to set a good example? Or are his charitable endeavors, generosity toward his employees and deep devotion to his family enough?

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There's nothing wrong with a school principal wanting to raise standards for the students in their charge, but that can be done without clothes-shaming parents who may have a diverging set of guiding principles.

If I really wanted to set a good example for my kids in this situation, then I would tell the principal this: It's not appropriate to tell people what they're wearing isn't nice, since we don't know if they can afford other clothes or if some emotional, physical or other situational limitation—or even just another preference—has kept them from dressing up.

Does it take just a few moments to put on something more formal? Absolutely. But I'm not the one attending school, just the one dropping and picking my kid up from it. Furthermore, if we're going to start judging people by their clothing, then shouldn't we also be assessing the value of books by their covers, too? Or is that the antithesis of what we've been trying to teacher our kids all along?

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