Trouble with a T-Shirt

When I was growing up, the rule about t-shirt content was pretty simple.  No swear words, no advertisement for drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, no offensive content, and no nudity/sexual content.  There were teachers that sometimes took a more conservative stance like my high school American history teacher who decided that a t-shirt from the Dead Kennedy’s concert was offensive to him.  He was the local leader of the Democratic committee and did not like the fact his hero was being represented by this band.

Outside of trying to make sure my girls don’t dress like a Bratz doll, dress codes are not something I worry about much.  While my kids may have crazy combinations of clothes, they are always covered and usually weather appropriate….usually.

Last year, I did get Indigo in trouble with a t-shirt at her preschool.  There is an online site that I love (, and they have the coolest t-shirts.  Several times a year, they sell them for $5 or $10, so I’ll buy a bunch.  I like clever t-shirts, and it helps me avoid the walking advertisements for kid’s shows that are more prominent at a department store.

When I saw this t-shirt, I knew Indigo had to have it.

Indigo takes it very personally when she finds that someone has put raisins in a cookie.  She feels tricked and will tell you all about it…..even days later.  How could I not buy this t-shirt for her?

Then I sent her to school wearing it.  As I’m walking out of the house, DJ asks, “Is that t-shirt really appropriate?”  At that point, the thought had never crossed my mind.  I figure I would ask Garbanzo.  He’s a teacher.  He would know.  His response was “it’s fine.  It wasn’t offensive to anyone but the cookie, and he doubted the cookie would raise a fuss.”

We get to preschool, and Indigo rushes up to her teacher to show off the t-shirt.  She loved it.  She was proud.  The teacher looked at me and said, “yeah, she’s going to have to change.  If she was going to the local public school, she would be sent home for wearing it.  They would not let her change or turn it inside out.”

I was a bit dumbfounded.  And, the teacher, knowing that Garbanzo was a teacher, quickly jumped in and said, “Personally, I understand the humor even though I would never let my child wear a t-shirt that had the word stupid on it.  But, I don’t want the other parents to complain.” 

At this point, I decided I needed to try another tact (and try not to get annoyed at the passive aggressive comment about my parenting decision).  After helping Indigo get changed, I asked her teacher why the word “stupid”.  She kind of hushed me as I said it.  I asked when the word became a “bad word”.  She said that they wanted to teach the kids to say nice things to people – not use harsh words.

So, I pushed a bit more.  “Let me get this straight, so there are now good words and bad words? And, these are words that are non-cuss words?”  She said yes.  At this point, I had heard enough.  Did she ever hear about a “teachable moment”?   “Of course” was her response.  “So instead of teaching kids how words can hurt people or when they should or should not be used, we are going to teach them to treat them like swear words? I think kids use these words now because they get a rise out of adults” 

She tried to turn the tables on me by asking what I would do if Indigo said something was stupid.  I told her I would ask her why she thought it was stupid.  I would help her articulate what she was really feeling.  Then I would close with “oh, so you don’t like the movie because it is boring, not stupid.” Teach the kid how to articulate what they are really feeling.  What a concept!

The teacher had to concede at that point, but fell back on the “local district policy”.  Gotta love it when they hide behind a policy.

Ironically enough, she has worn this t-shirt once a week to her current school, and everyone comments how it fits her personality, how they wish raisins would stay out of their cookies too, and how clever the t-shirt is (where did you get it?).  You could speculate that maybe the parents at the new school are less uptight, but trust me, that is not the case.  They are uptight as Garbanzo could tell you.  I would like to think that they know when to care about the word stupid and when not to worry about it.

Or maybe, they know the principal will laugh at them….and ask “really?”

What do you think?

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