Sunday, July 09, 2006

Little People



I had this random thought today and im curious to hear what others think.
I was noticing today how children in the Torah observant communities dress like mini adults.
The boys sport little blue suits with white shirts and if they’re teenagers a black hat/fedora. They have black dress shoes and buzz cuts. They look like mini men.
The girls wear little pin striped suits, or long skirts and button down shirts.
They remind me of businessmen and career women, mini mommies and daddies, completely at ease in these nonflexible outfits. The girls wear their hair up and sit cross legged, the boys, mischievous as they are, sit properly and adult like when in the presence of grown-ups.
I just looked at them today and thought – these are not the kids im used to, these are mini adults – adults in training.


Now contrast that to what we are used to seeing out in the world. When was the last time you saw a little boy in a suit, or a girl wearing a dress? Boys wear jeans, ripped t-shirts, baggy, comfortable clothes and the girls wear funky little outfits, bright tshirts with their bellybuttons showing and denim mini skirts. Everything is stretchy, bright and fun.
Now my initial reaction was.. oh these poor little religious kids, cant they dress more casually, have a little fun, they’re just kids after all? But then it occurred to me. At what point does a child switch from “just a kid” to a responsible, mature adult, in terms of clothing and more importantly, in terms of mentality?

When you look out into the world, you realize, it’s not only the kids who are wearing stretchy, bright and fun clothes. More and more this has become the way adults dress too. Casual Friday at work, lycra gowns, baby T’s, platform shoes, mini, shiny, stretchy, comfy.. that’s the dress code today.. but not for kids alone, for adults as well.

So what’s wrong with adults also dressing comfortably? creatively? fun? I don’t know if anything is wrong with it but it makes me wonder where this tendency comes from? Is it from an unhealthy desire to remain child-like, from a selfish yearning for childish freedom?

It seems to me that in today’s society, the emphasis is on ‘fun’ and ‘easy’. Everyone wants to be happy, but happy is often associated with having fun and feeling good – and that shows in the clothing of our generation. In a society where it’s common to lie about one’s age, where botox is a lunchtime beauty procedure and where every effort is made to stay looking young, children are taught that adulthood and maturity is to be avoided at all costs. People are getting married later – if at all – and its not uncommon for women to start having children much later, balding men ride in their red convertibles, everyone’s teeth are capped, and not a grey hair can be seen. The message is – avoid getting old – at all costs! Maturity, wisdom and experience are not valued. Youth, entertainment and a carefree existence are this generation’s aspirations.

In the Torah world, the focus seems to be different. Children are in training for something much more serious. They will have to live a life focused on spiritual growth and community service and the training can’t start when they turn 18. It’s a process that needs to begin during childhood. Of course children are children, and have needs specific to childhood, but the focus is on training responsible adults.

I don’t know if this idea is a little far fetched, but today, as I sat in synagogue and watched this little girl in her pinstriped suit in contrast to the (not so young) woman in her lycra army print clothing (much more suitable for her grandaughter!) it occurred to me that there really was a difference in the way these two communities dress. Not a differnces based on the laws of modesty, but one based on perspectives, on life focus, on direction. It made me proud to be part of a community that sees so much potential in its children and dresses them in a way to inspire them to grow up unafraid of growing up.

27 Comments:

At Sunday, July 09, 2006 12:40:00 PM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Very interesting. Are you talking about shabbos attire for little kids? Cuz during the week I and most other moms dress our kids in comfortable and age appropriate clothing. It certainly is a nice thought, though. It might just depend on the individual though. It is food for thought.

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 12:44:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

frumgirl:
good point, im not really sure. i mean it definitely applies to shabbos clothing, but i feel like even during the week little religious kids dress differntly. shirts tucked in, little dresses..
omg but there is nothing cuter than a little boy with payos flying around under his baseball cap :)
i dunno.. it was just a thought i had at noticing the stark difference between these kids and the usual kids/adults i see in my neighbourhood..

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 2:22:00 PM, Blogger Lady-Light said...

I used to like that, seeing little frum kids (& adults)dressed up to even buy vegetables, for gosh sakes. Funny, the older I get, the more casual I want to be; no more victorian age cultural dress for me - rather, the 'short-sleeved shirt & sandals' wear to shul, as they do in Israel, especially the 'mitnachalim'. I am (in my older-age) leaning towards keffiyehs, sandals & jeans skirts. A hippie at heart. (My next post might be about this, more at length...if I ever get to it)

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 2:27:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

lady-light, i totally know what youre saying.. my tendency is also to be totally casual and comfortable and laid back.. but i was just wondering about the rationalization behind it..im still at a point in my life where i can admire THEM, but not BE them :)

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 5:08:00 PM, Blogger s.J. said...

i hear what you're saying, but come 20 years from now, jews will be dressed in today's style.
we seem to be a step or two behind the times.
(for good or bad)

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 7:21:00 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

My little boy only wants to dress like his Daddy. He doesn't realise that he's missed out on dressing like a little kid because soon he'll be expected to dress the way he is now!

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 7:31:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Great Observation!
You're right. The clothing mirrors the current thought process. Generally the current way of thinking is lack of obedience and subservience..
A "uniform" is all about being subservient to something..

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 8:11:00 PM, Blogger s.J. said...

and so is wearing shackles.
and being branded.
and wearing a yellow star on your clothing.
excellent point david.

hmm... now where did i put my leg manacles??

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 9:00:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

s.j.
You are so off the mark.
It's like me saying It's good to have a police force..to keep order..
and you replying..
thats right..
and so is the gestapo..
and the KGB..
are you incapable of understanding different types of subserviences?
Please don't take your issues out on me..

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 9:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(interesting tidbit: those mini Fisher-Price figurines that are classified 'Little People' by the company, are called menschies/men by many religious households..)

 
At Sunday, July 09, 2006 9:56:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Yeah kids always want to be adults and us adults want to look young like kids or teenagers. Although they want to look like adults they sure want to act like kids and can't as the adults sometimes force them to strip away their childhood and have to grow up real fast. Nice pic I love the anderson pics of the boys and girls. Nice thoughts on the matter.

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 6:07:00 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Nice analogy and interesting view.
I personally think it's fun to dress kids with a little fantasy, but at some point they must be prepared for the future.

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 10:07:00 AM, Blogger Scraps said...

I'm not always sure that I like seeing little kids dressed up like mini-adults. It does have a certain cuteness factor, but at the same time, I don't think it's always healthy for children to have to grow up too soon. Yes, we value adulthood and place more emphasis on the importance of maturity and responsible behavior more so than much of society at large, but it doesn't have to start at age six.

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 1:38:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

s.j.:
youre probably right, but I think that just means that we are getting further and further from the truth and more and more entrenched in the illusions of this world. I don’t think it’s a good thing that we are catching up..

kasamba:
cute :) I guess when your son’s a teen and wants to rebel, get your husband to dress like a kid!

david and s.j.:
im not sure its my place to bud in, but I will :)
I agree with david that the clothing mirrors a way of thinking (duh, that’s why I blogged about it!) but i don’t think I was referring to a lack of obedience or subservience. Those aren’t really qualities I aspire to. There is an aspect of that which is positive, which is needed in society, but in general im not one to encourage that kind of mentality. To me its more about empowering people, making them feel that their fate is in their hands and its their responsibility to act responsibly. So teaching children not to avoid growing up, to be responsible adults and to live with intention, and not just frivolously is a great part of Torah education, but I don’t think that implies obedience or shackles or an oppressive mentality (which i dont think david was imlying)

anonymous:
Im not sure I get the point.. what’s a menschie?

socialworker/frustrated mom :
they want to look like adults and act like kids and we ARE adults and want to act like kids.. im trying to find out what makes some adults act like adults!
and thanks, I thought the picture was adorable too :)

pragmatician:
pragmatic advice :) I agree that kids cant actually BE mini adults. They are kids and that needs to be respected, but I like that they are taught from a young age what the long term objective is.

scraps:
I agree that’s why I posted this, I wanted to hear how others feel. I agree that some of it might be taken too far, 5 year olds don’t need to worry about shidduchim (yes ive seen it!) but like I told pragmatician, I like the direction, the focus. I guess it could be implemented a little less rigidly.

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 2:47:00 PM, Blogger s.J. said...

dave- i'm sorry. i was out of line.
but i was trying to say was that if you'll look, the outfits that today's jews are wearing now, is a mirror of what society was wearing 20 years ago. and if you were to look at old photographs, you'd see the same outfits being worn by the jewish children of yore. in my personal opinion, it's not that this is the 'proper' way to dress, besides for tzniut/s (and a kippah and beged katan on men) jewish people are unrestricted in what they are or not allowed to wear as their 'uniform'.
yes it's very sweet to see children in dinner outfits, but there's a time and a place for everything.
the same way we don't make them carry around atache cases and do complex math problems on pocket calculators, to train them to be adults by making them dress in fancy suits and dresses is [in my eyes] unreasonable.
yes shabbos is something else and so is going to special function (i.e. visiting grandparents, going to shul,school, bris, etc).
but for a five year old to be told to walk around in a tux during the week is not allowing them to live life as children.
would you walk around with your belt by your chin b/c your perparing for when you're a senior citizen?

again, i was harsh before. and i apologize, but we did once wear yellow stars as part of a uniform..... but i suppose that's a whole other can of worms entirely.

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 2:51:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

s.j. i agree
i guess where i live people dont even dress appropriately on shabbos or in shul and thats where i see the real contrast.
to tell you the truth, i barely know what frum kids wear during the week..
but kids in my synagogue come in jeans, flip flops, halter tops.. and to see the contrast with these little frum kids was astonishing.

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 2:54:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

oh and one more thing..
the point of my post was also to emphasize how adults often dress in the non torah world and how childish it is and how that reflects an immature attitude, i guess since no one mentionned this, we all agree :)

(its my blog and ill be right if i want to!)

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 3:03:00 PM, Blogger s.J. said...

m00kster- is this on shabbos?
yes, i beleive there should be a difference [however so minor] between your weekday dress and your holiday dress.
but (for weekday wear at least) there's there's nothing wrong with jeans and flipflops.
(assuming that we're talking about boys. i have no clue of the laws of women's tznius)
halter tops i would have to say are a no-no
(again concerning boys)

but i've also heard that loose pants on a girl are permitted. again assuming that they weren't designed for men and that they cover your level of tznius
(again i wouldn't nessecarily call it shabbos clothing)

but then the flip side is, these halter topped people are coming to shul (assumedly to daven) regardless of what you think of them, you've got to admit, it's definitely a start (for lack of better word)

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 3:08:00 PM, Blogger s.J. said...

the world is going to pot.
as the gemara(?) says: niskatnu hadoros.
what do you want want from them?
(and think of it from a secular veiw: we all are recovering from a helter skelter hippy movement. where every [moral] code was broken in the persuit of peace, love and happiness. what do you expect?a motor boat ALWAYS leaves a wake bigger than itself)

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 3:13:00 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

lol,

Good point in your post about training to be an adult and not being afraid to grow.

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 3:20:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

s.j,
100000% i wasnt at all judging them for how they dress when they come. id much rather they come - whichever way they choose.
i was just comparing two mentalities, the way i perceive them.
if anything, it wasnt even about the clothes per se, it was about the motivation behind the choices of clothes..

lvnsm27,
thanks :)

 
At Monday, July 10, 2006 8:09:00 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

When you find an adult that acts like an adult ask them lol.

 
At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 3:57:00 AM, Blogger chaverah said...

what an interesting post to envision. YES! i do see these kids all the time! the question is, is it because the parents are trying to teach them how to be a mench or is it because these parents are trying to out do eachother in fashion.

 
At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 8:00:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

chaverah, that tendency of parents to try and outdo eachother exists everywhere.. does any kid really need a 60$ pair of pants or an 80$ sweater? the market is geared at attracting the parents.. and if youre a busy, guilt ridden parent, you'll do anything to make sure your kid gets the best - or at least look like he does.
its sad..

 
At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 2:16:00 PM, Anonymous Joe in NY said...

with thoughts like that, youre better off watching 'sopranos'

 
At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 1:36:00 AM, Blogger jjew said...

Oh, dude, I think it's all good. I know families like that, but I also know frummy families whose kids have the ability to act like stupid little kids too. Reminds me of one family I know in Scottsdale whom I spent some Shabbats with. Their kids jump around and shout much of the time, or play lego's. Their oldest daughter, who is about 5 or 6 I think, wears this green dress thing every Shabbat, it's like her Shabbat dress, and it's very childish. Hehe, there's hope for us yet, achi. Shalom unto you, Yaniv...

 
At Friday, July 21, 2006 10:03:00 AM, Blogger A Frum Idealist said...

I think it's funny. recently my son and I went out and both bought the exact same suit. lol.

 

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