So, let’s talk about a Brit’s favourite subject: you’ve guessed it, the weather!
We live in the south of Sweden, and the weather is very similar to the north of England (where I originate from). I think most people are under the impression that all of Sweden is covered in snowdrifts as high as houses for most of the year, and seem rather disappointed when I explain that’s not the case. However, despite not having to withstand conditions as tough as they do in the far north, the southern Swedes are still very adept at wrapping up warmly. They wear all-in-one overalls, winter boots, big furry hats and huge mittens – and that’s just the adults! They take keeping warm very seriously indeed.
Therefore, it probably doesn’t come as a great surprise to learn that it embarrasses me no end when my kids refuse to wear their hats and gloves. I watched my nine year old walk home from school today – he came skipping down the road (I can see the school from my house), with his coat wide open, no hat, and no gloves; nose as red as Rudolph’s, and hair flapping in the wind. He didn’t have a care in the world. I, on the other hand, urgently scanned the periphery for the hoards of neighbours muttering to themselves about how English people can’t dress their kids appropriately.
I picked my six year old up from school a few weeks back, and it was a particularly cold day. They were outside playing, and every single child was dressed up as described above, apart from my lad. I was somewhat miffed, because he’d gone to school with snow trousers, coat, hat and gloves. Apart from the coat, he was wearing none of the other items. I whizzed up to the teacher to ask why he wasn’t wearing them, and she told me he’d apparently said he didn’t have a hat or gloves. I was most indignant that of course he had them with him, and that next time they should ensure he was wearing them. My little lad got a bit of an rant on the way home about the importance of wearing his winter clothes! Did it work? Did the message get through? No, unfortunately not; it seemed to fall on very deaf ears.
In our house, we have a hat and glove eating ghost. We must have. Where else would they all go? At the start of season, we had hundreds of both, and we are now down to one hat that doesn’t fit either of them. So who knows where they are – the kids have probably lost them on purpose to stop me nagging at them to put them on! Either that, or they are laughing themselves silly, at our expense, with the odd socks that have also vanished.
So, why are my kids so unconcerned with dressing up warm, when every other child in Sweden seems to have it ingrained in their DNA? I blame the UK – we just don’t dress our kids appropriately. When it snows we put wellies on them, when really it should be hardy winter boots; and when it is raining, we make no provision whatsoever – they walk to school with no rain clothes, get soaked to the skin, with no other dry clothes to change in to. Not only do kids in Sweden have warm winter outer wear, they also have rain clothes. This means that they are allowed to play outside come rain or shine; none of this ridiculous, namby-pamby business about schools following absurd health and safety guidelines here, and quite rightly so. In Sweden, they’ve got it just about right – provide your kids with rain clothes, and everything just works! But it’s not only the kids that wear rain clothes in Sweden; the adults partake in a little protective gear, too. Although I completely agree that it is the practical and sensible thing to do, it does look faintly ridiculous to see a grown man wearing rain clothes!
Going back to health and safety (a favourite subject of mine, can you tell?), the UK have got themselves so tied up in knots trying to prevent accidents from happening, that they only thing they are succeeding in preventing is kids be kids. It’s a very rare day when my kids are not allowed out to play at break time, and that’s how it should be. Let them get some fresh air to blow away the cobwebs!
My eldest was eight when we left the UK, and had been at school since he was four – however, in all those years, I never once got the chance to see him participate in a sports day – every year, they were cancelled; either because it had been raining, was raining or was forecast to rain. To me, that is policy gone mad! I guess their fear is that someone is going to fall over and hurt themselves; ‘cos, like, kids never do that, do they? And even if they do fall over because it’s wet? Well, then that’s called an accident, and life goes on. Wrapping kids up in cotton wool will do them no favours in the long-run.
In a similar vein, I remember walking to pick my kids up from school the first day. There were kids everywhere, hanging off trees, knee-deep in sand, and hidden away in every conceivable corner you could imagine. The cacophony of noise was deafening, even in the open air, but one thing was unmistakable: the laughter and the joy. There were no teachers yelling for them to get down from high trees; they were merely allowing the children to explore, possibly make their own mistakes, but ultimately, just be themselves. I found that just wonderful, and so liberating.
We need to encourage our kids to just enjoy life; adulthood will have enough for them to worry about. Let them live in the moment, without instilling worry about how they might slip over if it is wet. Let them run free. Let them be kids!