THE headteacher in Darlington who wrote to parents telling them how inappropriate it is to be dressed in their nightwear when they bring their kids to school is not the first of her profession to be put in that position.
The fact that parents would do such a thing in the first place beggars belief and seems to suggest they would be better having their kids drop them at school, because they are clearly in need of some basic education in manners, social grace, respect for others and not a little self-respect.
It is yet more evidence of the fact that we have a generation or two who haven’t got a clue when it comes to social niceties – not to mention common sense. They have clearly never been taught what is socially acceptable conduct and what isn’t, nor do they appear to have the nous to work it out for themselves.
If we leave aside for a moment the objections raised about parents showing up at school still in their nightwear, a more basic question comes to mind as to why they would choose to do so.
Does it not cross their minds that their PJs are picking up dirt, bacteria, and pollution which they then introduce into their beds when they return to their nests at home?
There is also the slightly more intimate subject of what they are wearing, or not wearing, under their nightwear when they are outside on the school run. Would they ordinarily wear, or not wear, underclothes when they are out and about?
And it really doesn’t matter if, like the Victorians, people are often more fully clothed in bed than they are in the street, or that their night clothes look much the same as their day wear.
It’s the fact that they are going out in what they were wearing in bed, basically because they are too bone idle to get bathed or showered and appropriately dressed for the great outdoors.
Even if you can, for a moment, excuse a parent running late wearing their PJs inside a car they aren’t actually going to get out of, and therefore no one is going to know how they are dressed, there can be no excuse whatsoever for someone showing up to a parents’ evening in their PJs – a situation cited by that headteacher. Why would anyone do that?
The basic answer, obviously, is because they can and they do, and they really don’t care what anyone else thinks – the “me, myself and I” generation.
Any question of bad manners, lack of respect and unacceptable behaviour never enters their head. And is there any wonder their kids have problems?
We’ll also leave aside the fact of so many parents choosing to drive their offspring to school instead of encouraging them get some exercise by walking for a change – albeit these days with friends for safety reasons.
Experience seems to prove that the older kids get the more embarrassing they find it to be seen being accompanied by a parent, let alone being kissed goodbye as they flee for the playground.
How much more embarrassing, nay mortifying, must it be for them to be seen with their mother (or worse still their father) still wearing their night wear, and even their slippers?
Wearing night clothes to go out makes even less sense than wearing outdoor clothing in bed – which people wouldn’t do unless they have failed to pay their gas or electricity bill.
No one knows (or wants to know) what we wear in bed – it’s a personal choice.
And so to go out in the street still wearing the very personal items we were wearing in bed is breaking all sorts of social taboos – unless, of course, we are on our way to a fancy dress party, in which case what we would be wearing wouldn’t be what we just got out of bed in.
One frequent excuse offered by a number of parents interviewed after this story hit the media had to do with being late, and that any form of dress or undress was justified if it helped a late-running parent get their little darling to school on time.
Whether we agree or disagree, that still wouldn’t account for the number of incidents (and sights) being experienced at the school gate and eventually resulting in head teachers having to say something in defence of decency and respect, not to mention the fact that they really should be setting their children (and other people’s children who see them) a far better example in those same areas of decency and respect, and also having a little self-respect.
Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.