It’s that time of year. The time of year I heat up by nagging my kids to put a @%#&(! jumper on. Drop off this morning, 7ºC: my son in short sleeves, shorts, light cotton.
“I’m not cold!” he insists.
“Why aren’t you cold?” I say.
Why don’t kids get cold!?!
He’s got a jumper and a coat and even long trousers hidden somewhere in the depths of his cupboard. Is he simply too lazy to get them out? Could he really be that lazy? Answer: yes, he could. But something else is going on here too.
Stop telling me what to do
The arguments over rugging up in winter start early for just about every parent. The three-year-old shrugs off the jacket you’re trying to bundle her into. The four-year-old wears sundresses all winter. There’s a deep-seated desire for kids to decide what they will and won’t wear and the winter jacket becomes a symbol of that.
It stands to reason that as they grow, this need for independence only grows stronger. By the time kids hit late-primary/early-high school they are no more sensible than a three or four-year-old, but definitely more insistent.
I’ve battled my kids about coats for more than a decade and, really, in the end, has it made any difference? Sometimes I win and they wear the jacket, sometimes I lose and they don’t. What’s the big deal and why do I keep fighting?
Sensible words here: How we foster independence in our school-age kids
Let me love and nurture you
The fact is, keeping our kids warm feels like a deep-seated nurturing instinct. When I see my kids out in the cold with bare arms and legs, something primal within me lurches.
Keeping the kids safe, warm and fed is pretty much the basics, right?
So every time my children refuse my lovingly offered coat, it’s like they are basically refusing my love.
Not always, of course. “I’ll put it on now, but I’ll just take it off later when you can’t see me,” my daughter tells me, every time. “Would that make you feel better?”
Strangely, it does. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job and sent my kid off into the world with the basics, literally, covered. A small part of me thinks it’s an absolute victory because I figure once the jacket is on and she’s warm as toast, she’ll want to keep it on all day. This has never actually happened.
Judged and guilty
Of course, one of the main reasons I want that darn coat on is that I feel the teachers will judge me as an unfit mother for sending my kid to school freezing. This is especially hard when they won’t even put a jacket in their bag ‘for later’.
“There will be no later, Mum,” they protest. “And then I’ll just have to carry a jumper around with me all day for nothing.”
I want to say: You could tie it around your waist so that the teacher notices your sloppy ways and tells you to take it off, therefore noticing that you do in fact have a jacket with you and your mother has done a good job. You could do that.
I watch all the kids filing into school and note the snug ones in long pants, jumpers, jackets, even the odd glove, scarf and beanie (overkill, it’s Sydney, but extra point to the mum regardless). I count 10 other kids out of about 100 who are in short sleeves and shorts. They look cold and neglected. Doesn’t their mother love them?
High school is different
I don’t bother counting the high school kids. There are too many unloved kids over there, but by this age it’s self-love, not mother love that’s letting them down. By high school, mums are off the hook.
Teenagers are crazy and nobody expects them to be sensibly dressed for the season.
“No sense, no feeling,” my dad used to say as I sailed out of the house in a tank top and shorts in July. Yeah, I was guilty of defying the weather man myself when I was a teen. I don’t think I wore a jumper to school from Year 8 through to Year 11, when a little maturity suddenly makes you cold.
Fact is, loads of kids in high school (and often primary school too), don’t wear a jacket because it’s, somewhat ironically, “not cool”. Someone, at some time, decided that jumpers were boring and generations of school kids have refused to keep warm ever since.
It’s not surprising, really. Tweens and teens are so stupidly literal about everything and I guess they think that to be cool you have to actually be cool. Attempting to point out this ridiculousness to kids will get you absolutely nowhere, of course.
“I wish you’d wear your $80 jacket I bought you for school,” I tell Max, but only because it hurts to have forked out the money for the jacket. Especially when he told me at the time he would never wear it.
“I told you I would never wear it,” he reminds me.
“Maybe your sisters will grow into it,” I say hopefully, eyeing off the giant jacket, bought for 6’3″ Max. “Actually, I hope they don’t.”
One of my girls already wears it. I know the real reason it’s been easy for me to let the goosebumps go as the kids have gotten older is because I have one perpetually cold child. My middle would wear a jumper year-’round if she could.
To school in winter she often wears her brother’s giant jacket over the top of her own jumper and jacket. I feel quite proud rolling her out of the car in the mornings. She cancels out the other two, who in contrast look as if they have forgotten their bucket and spade for the beach excursion.
“You’re one of ‘those’ girls,” I tell her. “The blue girls – always cold, always clinging to others for warmth.”
I worked with a blue girl in London who used to crank the thermostat up to 40ºC and still needed her own personal heater to warm the Ugg boots she changed into in the office. I confess I always felt a kind of mild disgust as I watched her purple hands plucking away at the keyboard.
Perhaps being immune to the cold isn’t such a bad thing, after all.
Image by Maura Silva