Last Friday my son’s school finally opened its doors to welcome the pupils back for a seasonal start amidst the snow. It was – 13° Centigrade. Being in S2, appearances are important. One unspoken teen social rule is to wear the minimal amount of clothing that your parents will let you get away with. I reckon it’s a self-inflicted rite of passage. So MJ eschewed the fleece pullover, thermal underwear, spare socks and a pair of gloves that I strongly advised him to wear. He wore a winter coat and Man United hat. Knowing the value of experiential learning I let him go to school inappropriately dressed for the climatic conditions.
Now I’m sure that most of you will have heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” But what about “bad” activities?
One favourite teen game is “Snowman”. This involves being shoved into the snow by your pals and being completely buried by having snowballs chucked at you. Snow goes down your back, into your shoes and the result is that you get soaking wet and cold very quickly. MJ thinks it’s wonderful. When my anxious husband enquires as to whether this is a form of bullying, MJ refutes the suggestion immediately. “If you don’t get snowmanned, everyone thinks you’re scared.” It’s a boy’s only game. MJ chuckles at the thought of girls being involved. “It would be funny if they did get snowmanned cos they’d all scream as it’s so cold.”
I’m sure if this activity was brought to the attention of school staff, it would be banned after the first incident arose. Aside from the possibility of this looking like a game that could easily get out of hand, many school staff and parents worry about children getting soaking wet and sitting in overheated classrooms all day.
This situation is probably the norm up and down the country. Children are going voluntarily to school inappropriately dressed and then when let outside immediately start playing games where they are going to get wet and possibly hurt. Both the clothing worn and the activity undertaken are decisions made by the children who are being physically active and having fun.
Two days later, my son remains perfectly well. His Christmas cold has not reappeared. He remembered to put his wet clothes into the washing machine. He went to a football match yesterday where (again) because he wouldn’t wear enough clothes he came back freezing and thoroughly enjoyed warming up in front of the TV.
If we want our children to become responsible decision-makers perhaps the cold weather is an ideal opportunity to practice this and learn from mistakes. Let’s stop blaming schools and parents for being lax. Let’s stop banning games which may cause physical and/or social discomfort. Let’s give children an opportunity to learn for themselves in their way on their terms.