Posh Brands, Designer Labels and Additional Needs Parenting

Mark Arnold by Mark Arnold Additional Needs

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark heads up Urban Saints pioneering additional needs ministry programme and is co-founder of the ‘Additional Needs Alliance’, a learning and supp...

I was sat in a café a few Sundays ago, a brief oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic and unpredictable week of additional needs ministry and additional needs parenting.

The tea was great (I’m not a coffee drinker!), which was helpful, as I was tired and in serious danger of dropping off to sleep otherwise… there could have been snoring… #awkward

During a pause in sipping and munching (there was also cake, obviously), as I glanced around the café from my seat positioned towards the back, I noticed someone a few tables away from me who was wearing a nice embroidered floral top.

What I noticed, however, was that embroidered in large letters across the back of the top, between the shoulders, was the brand name… ‘Joules’.

I didn’t recognise it and wondered if it was her name, however I understand from those who know about these things that this is a ‘posh’ designer label.

That got me thinking… why would the brand name be embroidered like that on the back of a garment?

The only conclusion I could come to was that it is a status symbol, making a statement to anyone looking at it…

“This is a posh brand, a designer label that I can afford to buy.”

I started surreptitiously looking around a bit more then, and noticed others wearing garments with ‘posh’ brand names and designer labels prominently displayed, some that I didn’t even need to ask about!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against people making an effort when they go out, I just got to wondering about how what we wear, what we look like, might even inadvertently categorise us in some way in the eyes of those who see us, placing us in a particular ‘clan’ in their eyes?

People have dressed to make a point as long as clothes have existed.

One of the greatest human beings ever to grace this earth, Mahatma Gandhi, dressed only in a simple homespun white cotton robe, making a strong political point about injustice as he did so.

As all of these thoughts flew through my mind, I glanced down at what I was wearing.

For the first time I noticed the smear of food that James, my 16-year-old (ASD, LD, Epilepsy) had wiped across my trousers before I went out, and my first thought was that I was glad that it was only food!

I got thinking about what the ‘brand identity’, the ‘designer label’ of the additional needs parent might be…  possibly it’s crumpled smeared clothing, an unusual difficult to place smell, the latest look in the ‘exhausted’ range?

We must sometimes look a bit of an unusual sight!

But it occurred to me that the important thing is what we do, not what we look like.

We give our lives to serve our child, and that is what really matters.

Those words spoke to me, and I hope speak to you as you read this if you too are an additional needs parent…

It really doesn’t matter that much in the great scheme of things what we might look like sometimes, just being somewhere (café, work, the school gate, wherever…) might be an achievement in itself.

As a friend recently said to me “Getting up and having clean knickers to wear is sometimes a bonus… it’s the little things!”

The ‘brand identity’ and ‘designer labels’ of the additional needs parent do not need apologising for, they speak of our love for our child, our willingness to put them first, our never-ending endurance as we strive to do the very best we can for the child that is our first thought as we wake and our final thought as we (eventually!) drop off to sleep.

These are the labels that we are given to wear, and I will happily have that embroidered across the back of my clothing, alongside the smears, any day!


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