Tuesday, May 24, 2022

My kids have strange clothing preferences: One daughter won’t wear tights, ever. One wears tights, all the time, even in the humidity of summer. One only wears pencil skirts; the other finds them to be restrictive to her cartwheeling-in-public habit. A third child (boy) only wears short sleeves, and sweaters, vests, ties, and suits are all off-limits. After many years of trying to logically comprehend these things, I am at peace with not having a real answer “why,” and have just accepted the situation as is. I shop around their nonsensical preferences, avoiding certain racks in stores, compromising with leggings instead of stockings, and buying styles I know they will wear, even if it’s something I probably wouldn’t.

However, this year, they threw me a curveball. No more jackets.

One child eased me into this last year, by wearing her “fall jacket” through the dead of winter, until a blustery snowstorm finally convinced her that a longer, down jacket was, in fact, more appropriate. Hats and gloves were still not good, and she missed out on many a snowball fight because of this refusal. But this year, I can’t even convince her to wear the fall jacket. And we’re not even close to winter.

“You’re not leaving the house without a coat,” I threaten, as the other kids have already exited our home and loaded themselves into the car.

“Fine,” she deadpans. And stands still. I would like to pause for a moment to explain that I have purchased for her several appealing fall jackets this year and showed her some hand-me-downs adorned with bows, leopard print, sparkles, and the softest fleece imaginable. One newly purchased coat was voted too “boyish” and, after much discussion, she agreed that I could ornament it, and then she would love it. We spent an hour together, as I hand-made a flower, received her approval, and stitched it on. This proved to not be feminine enough, and I then had to use silver puff-paint to make some dots that resembled sparkles all over the trim. I even personalized the zipper with her name in glittery letters. She wore it once, with a huge angry scowl on her face, and a week later, it became the happy property of my niece, who does not share a name with my daughter, but did not seem to mind that the zipper bore my child’s name.

She glares at me and doesn’t budge; the coat, too offensive to even graze her fingertips, rests on the floor by her feet. I am caught. My threat would otherwise be meaningful if I didn’t have three other kids outside waiting to go, and if we didn’t have somewhere to be. I feel it is unfair to punish the others because of her coat-wearing nonsense, and so I switch my tactics, desperate to just get her out the door with the least amount of tears, and without a battle, and I think, maybe it won’t be so bad if I just let her freeze? “Okay,” I say, shrugging my shoulders, “wear whatever you want.” She victoriously skips out of the house in her thin sweatshirt, over her leotard, and the chilly wind pierces my neck through my down coat and must obviously be numbing her bones.

I catch her shivering as she buckles into her seat. “Can you turn on the heat?” she asks, and I mumble that wearing a coat is sometimes helpful. I am hoping that the natural consequences of cold weather will teach her a lesson, and that the next day she might ask to wear something more weather appropriate.

She does not.

My son, also, has begun to refuse wearing his winter coat. “It doesn’t fit!” he tries, and I note that it is the correct size. It was big the year before, and now it seems more accurate. “It doesn’t keep me warm! I need something that keeps me warm,” he attempts, but I tell him it is stuffed with down, and there is basically nothing warmer. If that doesn’t keep him warm, I don’t know what will. I tell him maybe if he wears long sleeves, he will be warm. But my logic falls on deaf ears, and he shrugs into a fall jacket, his bare arms warmed minimally by the thin fabric.

So, if you see me walking with my family this winter in a blizzard, and I am bundled up in boots, a heavy coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and my kids are wearing flip-flops, t-shirts, with maybe just a hoodie tied under the chin, please don’t make assumptions that I am selfish and only bought winter gear for myself. Because really, we have closets full of gear, and even more that I have purchased but returned. I’ve just forfeited this particular battle, have chosen to let go, and hope that some day, they will find merit in wearing a winter coat.

Sarah Abenaim is a freelance writer, living in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected]

By Sarah Abenaim

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