Odd Socks and Semiotics*

We were in the car on the way to nursery when I noticed that Jack was wearing odd socks. Oops. The Spanish authorities probably take children into care for less.

Already, he is the only child in nursery who doesn’t wear a ‘mandilón’  – a sort of old-fashioned, long-sleeved, collared pinafore worn to protect the clothes from dirt. He is also the only child in nursery who’s hair sticks out at odd angles because he is the only one whose mother doesn’t slick his hair down with baby cologne (or, let’s be honest here, brush it very well or very often.)  He is the only child who turns up with sand in his shoes, in the turn-ups of his trousers and sometimes even in his ears.  You get the picture.

A typical mandilon, as worn in Spanish nurseries and schools to protect children’s clothing. Unless the child is called Jack ;)

Sometimes, like this morning when I sent him off wearing odd socks, I feel a little guilty at my failure to fit him in neatly (literally) to the Spanish system. But normally, not so much. This failure is not just simple laziness on my part (although I won’t deny that’s in there too ;) ), it actually stems from firmly held beliefs and values.

As practical as the mandilon is I just can’t bring myself to swaddle Jack in one. Just as I could never bring myself to wear one of the old fashioned housecoats that all my female neighbours wear for the performance of their household chores. In fact, I might just as well admit that practical as these protective garments are, I am equally and oppositely impractical. My real gripe with them is down to semiotics. I simply don’t like the message they give off and to me that’s more important than their function.

I want Jack to have the freedom to experience the world around him fully – to jump in muddy puddles, to roll around on the floor, to climb trees, to paint and draw, to play and run. To me, placing a mandilon on him would be like telling him forcefully and clearly, although silently, that the protection of his clothes is paramount. And that’s just not a value I have or one that I would want him to share.

As for me wearing an old fashioned housecoat, again I recognize that my laundry load would probably be lessened but I would honestly feel like I was putting on a garment that belonged in the fifties and in so doing publicly assuming a role as a 1950s style housewife. That is not a message that I personally want to telegraph to the world.

I remember watching the film ‘The Stepford Wives’ as a child. It had a really profound effect on me. From that day forth my number one fear was that of turning into some anodyne, perfected Stepford Wife. (My partner would wet himself with laughter at this particularly groundless fear of mine!) I actually made a vow to myself, there and then, that if I ever did have children mine would be the kind of house where there were tiny jammy handprints on the cupboard doors.

I’m proud to be able to say that, at least on some things in life, I have remained true to my childish ideals.

*Synopsis: I’m not just a lazy arse, I’m actually a champion of feminist causes ;)

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