Opinion

Oh, how I wish my daughters had school uniforms!

Ian Mendes explains why mandatory uniforms at his kids’ school would be awesome—for him.

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Illustration: Rachel Idzerda

“Dad, what should I wear today?”

As a father who is in charge of the morning routine, those six words scare me to death. (Other six-word sentences that frighten me include, “When can I have a boyfriend?” and “My parents are coming to visit.”)

The worst part about school starting up again is having to pick out clothes for our two daughters every morning. Yes, I could leave that responsibility with them, but the results are usually disastrous.

If I let our seven-year-old choose her own outfit, she often comes out wearing leopard-print leggings and a bright pink T-shirt, looking a bit too much like the runner-up in a Punky Brewster look-alike contest for my liking. I don’t really care what she wears in the summertime—she’ll inevitably be covered in a unique blend of playground sand and Creamsicles anyway. But when school rolls around, I want her to at least appear like she comes from an organized household, so I don’t have the principal phoning to make sure everything is OK on the home front.

Meanwhile, our older daughter is heading into grade six and has entered the too-cool-for-school phase. Literally—she doesn’t dress warmly enough for school. She’ll wear her favourite Aéropostale T-shirt on a freezing-cold day. Fashion over function.

On a lot of mornings, I get locked into a battle of wills with them over their clothes. I’ve tried picking out their outfits the night before, but someone inevitably has a change of heart when the morning sun hits the pre-selected items. And so the following statements are often heard in our house around 8:50 a.m., with the school bell set to ring in about 20 minutes.

From the kids:

“I don’t have any clean clothes.” (Said as she’s standing next to a basket of folded laundry.)

“I can’t find my grey sweatshirt.” (She has worn it for six consecutive days.)

“I don’t want to wear jeans—they’re too itchy.” (Sigh.)

From me:

“You can’t wear spaghetti straps to school.”

“Go back and put on something warmer.”

“Why can’t you kids go to a school with uniforms?”

I’ve been thinking school uniforms would go a long way toward reducing the morning tension in our household. The daily routine would be so much simpler if they had no choice with their clothes. I fantasize about opening up their bedroom closets and seeing five identical outfits on hangers—kind of like what Superman’s closet must look like on a Monday morning.

Speaking of fictional characters, Harry Potter had a lot of problems with his dreadful aunt and uncle, but at least they never fought about his clothes for school. That’s because they sent Harry off to Hogwarts without a care in the world about his wardrobe, since he was forced to wear a uniform to class every day.

Maybe my kids would unlock some wizardly powers of their own if they stopped wasting valuable brain power on choosing clothes and were instead forced into school uniforms. They could save their favourite outfits for the weekends, which might help them actually appreciate the clothes they have in their drawers instead of whining about having nothing to wear five days a week.

School uniforms are also easier on the family budget, as they can be a cheaper alternative to buying a whole new set of clothes from a trendy store. My oldest daughter loves shopping at Justice—where I walk out with a couple of items and feel like they’ve accidentally given me a Costco bill. I think I could sell my kids on this uniform concept if I told them it would result in us having more disposable income—which we could then turn around and spend on important things like frozen yogurt and Moshi Monster characters. And more stuff from Justice, I guess.

I know there are plenty of counter-arguments to having kids wear uniforms to school each day. Many critics contend that uniforms limit a child’s ability to express herself. But let’s be clear here: I’m not sure any girl is making a strong statement by wearing a My Little Pony T-shirt to school.

Mind you, I wouldn’t want my girls to lose all their fashion independence if their school switched to uniforms. So if the principal allowed it, I would totally be open to the idea of purchasing a pair of drab grey dress slacks they could wear on certain days instead of the dull navy pair.

But to be honest, my yearning for the kids to wear uniforms isn’t about the kids at all; it’s about me. If I didn’t have to stress about their outfits, my morning routine would be so much easier. I’d only have to get them up, brush their teeth, comb their hair, make their breakfast, pack their lunches and ensure their homework is done. Sounds like a breeze, right?

A version of this article appeared in our September 2015 issue with the headline, “Clothes call,” p. 64.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising his daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

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