My wife has a real job and sometimes has to leave before the children get up, so it's up to me to get them dressed.
I regard this as a straightforward task, involving two simple questions: Are the clothes appropriate to the season? Are they back to front?
If the answers to these questions are yes and no respectively, then, as far as I'm concerned, my children are correctly attired.
My wife doesn't see it this way. When she gets home from work in the evening, she will frequently be heard to say: “Tell me Annie didn't go to school looking like that.”
“Like what?” I ask. “That,” she says, pointing at our daughter. “Yes she did…why?” “Look at her!”
So I stare and I begin to see it. Annie is seven. She's wearing sequined leggings, a green fluorescent top and pink boots. She's also done something odd with her hair, involving half a dozen clips.
She looks kind of like Cyndi Lauper, circa 1985.
I'm dyslexic when it comes to clothes.
Once, years ago, I was sitting on the bus and looked down to discover that my shoes didn't match. This is why my wife always lays out clothes for the children in the morning.
Well, really the reason she lays out clothes is because of the pyjama incident a few years back, when I sent Mike off to Montessori in his, well, pyjamas.
Not because I forgot to get him dressed.
I just took off his pyjamas and put on another set. See, pyjamas don't look like they used to look. These days, they look for all the world like ordinary clothes.
Anyway, since then, Annie has developed that female ability to identify, remember and categorise clothes. This is helpful in the morning, because both Mike, who's five, and Conor, who's two, will frequently soak or rip whatever I've put on them, and I'll have to pick out something new for them. I can hold up a top and ask her: “Is this pyjamas?”
But Annie won't be told what to wear. She'll always turn her nose up at whatever her mother has laid out for her and go hunting in the wardrobe for something more flamboyant.
One of the reasons is the gay uncle who uses Annie to experience the girlhood he never had. But, it's not as if I give her free rein. Several times I've insisted she go back upstairs and lose the feathers, sequins, taffeta or hoops. I mean I'm bad, but I'm not that bad.