Earlier in the year, my daughter brought the “Spirit Week” flyer home with the list of daily “themes.” This year, there was a new addition, “Twin Day” was slotted instead of the wacky hair or crazy hat day that we had last year.
Our school has spirit weeks several times a year and they are always fun. A number of parents grumbled about the “literary character day” last year but my daughter went as Dorothy and had a lot of fun with it.
Something about “Twin Day” sent my mama-sense tingling, however.
As we approached the day, it seemed that a few of the primary school teachers also had concerns. A few kids came home saying that it was Twin Day OR Crazy Hat Day. Others came home saying that they could dress like the teacher.
An initial posting on a local Facebook group suggested that at least a dozen other parents felt the same way I did. A follow-up post by me on a different group, however, resulted in vitriol that makes the comments on this post about twin day look like a church picnic by comparison.
I really just don’t get it. I don’t understand the connection between objecting to one activity (on the grounds that it is likely to leave out kids in complete opposition to the alleged goal) and “ruining all the fun for everyone” or being over-protective. If schools overreact to every phone call, that still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t raise valid concerns or questions.
I don’t “coddle” my kids. I do expect them to face the obstacles life puts in front of them with maturity and confidence (appropriate to their age). I want kids to have fun, get messy, win, lose, and even get a few bruises. In fact, I called the school last year because I was concerned they weren’t being allowed to run at recess. I made a suggestion that the principal implemented. I am so very far from the wrap-the-kids-in-bubble-tape philosophy of parenting.
My kids were, in fact, fine. My daughter found a twin–or rather a triplet–but it was touch-and-go because one of the parents seemed unsure as to whether or not it was “okay” to have three children in the group instead of two. My son twinned with a kid in his soccer club and they just wore their uniforms.
Still, this twin day thing doesn’t make sense to me. The purpose of spirit week is to build a sense of group cohesion–aka “school spirit.” Twin day just pairs kids off and shines a spotlight on which kids who have no doppelganger, either because they were too shy or do not have many friends. The exclusion isn’t an unintended consequence, it is a built in feature.
As twin day drew near, there were reports of kids who couldn’t find twins, kids who were too nervous to ask, kids who had a twin and then got ditched for someone else, and even one kid overheard saying no one would want to be her twin because she can’t afford nice clothes. While I do think there are important life lessons to be learned about speaking up, making friends, and finding allies, I don’t think this is the best way to teach this lesson to primary school students.
I see this as very different from other types of exclusion. Not everyone is going to make the team or get a part in the play. Those are extra-curriculars, however. When you try-out, you accept that you will be judged on your ability and may not be selected. In the social sphere, this is also different from not getting a date to a school dance–you are older, you can choose not to go, or you can just go with your friends.
Sure, participation in school spirit week is optional but the vast majority of primary kids participate in all the themes and still have to go to school that day. Even if participation were not nearly universal, some children may want to participate but cannot because they have no twin. I imagine that participation goes down in the high school and an older kid could better cover being left out with just not wanting to do it. This is exclusion as a fundamental, built-in part of a school day activity. How does that build spirit? Exclusion is sometimes part of life but it doesn’t have to be part of an official school-day activity, especially for little kids.
I have no problem buying or making costumes, styling mismatched outfits and wacky hairdos, and being creative in support of school spirit. There are so many other themes for spirit week (though you may want to steer clear of anything obviously racist…shouldn’t that be obvious???) that build school spirit rather than excluding people.
What do you think? Is “twin day” double the fun or double the trouble?