I wrote this post the other day and then got busy and forgot to post it, but this morning I got an email inviting my boy to be a school ambassador and in the email it noted how smart he always looks which kinda underlines why I wrote the post in the first place…
I did not grow up, ensure dull men and bully bosses to spend my life ironing yet every Sunday night during term time I iron my son’s five white school shirts and three pairs of black trousers. I don’t iron them because I have nothing better to do or because I want him to look extra smart, supermarket shirts are perfectly passable un-ironed on a school kid in my opinion, I press them because of the unintended consequences of an ironed school shirt.
You see, I think we do make up our minds about a person when we first set eyes on them and I want people to see a boy, who is growing into a man, who is loved and cared for. Of course you can be loved and cared for in a wrinkled shirt but when society makes up its mind about black boys without them even opening their mouths we have to find multiple ways to decode the subliminal messages and stereotype thinking and I’ve found a starched shirt with a hint of lavender water gives him the edge. His teachers always comment how well turned out he is, I’m pretty sure they know he is not handy with a spray bottle and the cotton setting so they unconsciously know he has parents who make an effort for him and they treat him with the respect he deserves. I’ve seen a lot of bully teachers at my boy’s new school and fortunately only one of them has messed with my boy – they were given a quick lesson in manners and have behaved ever since. The others read the visual clues.
I remember listening to a discussion about how gangs prey on kids and the ones they target; those who look like someone is not coming to get them. My son has a clean shirt and well-greased skin, not just because he is loved, but so it is clear to anyone that may think there is a weak link that there is no fragility in his circle of protection. And though he would never admit it my boy also knows the difference looking sharp makes and I think he secretly likes the smell of lavender; it’s reassuring and reminds him school is only for a few hours a day. My boy also knows his clean and crisp shirt is an act of love, he notices kids who don’t have clean uniform and he questions what is going on in that family where washing isn’t done. Now I know the struggles many families face so I’m not here to judge, its bloody tough out there and sometimes something has to give. And yes all kids are vulnerable to gangs, I’m just recognising that where possible don’t under estimate the difference an ironed shirt makes to your kid and the people around them and remember the saying “Fix Up, Look Sharp” was around long before Dizzy Rascal.