There’s something to be said about having small children that listen blindly to their parents. I remember wrangling my sons into their toddler-sized snowsuits and boots and thinking that I couldn’t wait until they were old enough to dress themselves for cold weather. Of course, I never had a chance to teach my second child, born 18 months after his brother, how to put on his coat.
I always frantically just shoved him into his outerwear in a panic each morning in a frenzied attempt to get his older brother to pre-school. I can vividly remember the moment when this second, neglected, child showed me proudly how his preschool teacher taught him to put on his coat by placing it on the floor and then putting each hand into the appropriate sleeve and flipped it over his head. I was so relieved in that moment that one more parenting failure had righted itself through expensive preschool instruction.
Fast forward to fourth and sixth grade. I spend each morning with my boys in tears, arguing with me about what outerwear they will and will not wear. I stand in the foyer holding coats and screaming at them to hurry up – and tell them that it will be a high of 32 degrees. They instantly ask Alexa, “the queen of the truth” in our household. “Alexa – how many degrees is it in West Hartford, Connecticut?” Alexa – despite her many faults, thankfully – confirms my assessment of the weather each day, and the kids cry harder when they hear her forecast.
I am not using “in tears” lightly – they actually cry quite regularly in the morning while I ply them with hundreds of dollars of North Face and Spyder clothing. They beg and plead to wear just a sweatshirt each 30-degree morning. I consider my morning successful if they agree to wear their thin Patagonia jackets which are very thin sweater-coats. Please note: all of the expensive labels that I mentioned are just an effort to show you how much I have invested into this coat debacle.
We live in Connecticut. It is a place that is rife with cold temperatures and frequent precipitation. The streets are lined with puddles, slush, and snow. One of my children actually walks home from school each day in the cold wintry air. Every day without fail, that Patagonia jacket that I wrestled him into in the morning, can be found squished into his backpack as he strolls down the streets in an UnderArmour sweatshirt.
“Why??” I finally had a sit-down with my children to get to the bottom of it.
“Why don’t you want to wear a coat?” I asked my middle-schooler.
“Because it’s hot out.” He answered. In his defense, he is a sweaty, hot child – but the temperatures are in the low-30’s most days – so it doesn’t add up.
I moved on to my 4th grader.
“Well at recess I am wearing this big huge puffy Spyder jacket and I can’t play basketball with my friends because I can’t move my arms and they are all just wearing sweatshirts so they can play. Their mothers don’t care if they wear coats.”
I picture my poor child suffering from “good mothering” as Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” unable to lift his arms, burdened with protective cold-wear, watching recess from the sidelines.
“Well do you look at them without coats and think that their mothers don’t love them and think how lucky you are?” I ask expectantly.
“Umm…no,” he answers sheepishly.
“Well, do you wish that you had a mom that let you do whatever you want to do?” I ask.
“I guess not…” he answers pensively, “Because I would probably make a lot of bad decisions and might end up dead.”
Okay, well that’s a mother success if I ever had one.
However, there is the fact that all of these children are not wearing coats in 30-degree Connecticut. Are these mothers just giving up in the morning?
Is this a fight worth fighting?
When studied by the New England Journal of Medicine, kids without coats did not catch colds, viruses, or any other bacteria-related illness by not wearing a coat outside in cold weather.
So when I really take a close look at what is driving my obsession with children’s outerwear – I might find that there is a larger problem at hand. Am I genuinely concerned with my child being warm on his walk home? Am I genuinely concerned with my child’s warmth during the recess basketball game?
No, I am not.
I actually don’t care at all if they are warm. They have been provided with the most expensive, warmest, trendiest outerwear available. They have declined my offers of warmth and fashion.
The New England Journal of Medicine has confirmed that they will not get sick or perish from their lack of warm clothing.
So what do I care?
If I am being honest, I will confess that I do not want their teachers or other parents that might see them at school pick-up to judge me. They might think that I willingly sent my children into the winter air without proper clothing, that I am a bad mother, that I am distracted and busy with my own life and I let my children slip away into the cold without a coat.
Can I be strong enough to not care about such superficial issues?
My children won’t die without their coats. So I am resolved to lose this one battle as a mother. I look forward to some peaceful mornings.