“I see your daughter is wearing a coat!” many people have stopped me to report after having read my previous article on my jacketless children. I feel this demands an explanation for the sudden turn of events, to demonstrate that I did not pretend my kids don’t wear coats so that I could just avoid buying new ones until Black Friday sales.
Between the time the article was submitted, until it was actually published, I won the battle. It was a rainy Monday, and the temperature outdoors was a balmy 37 degrees. We headed for the bus, and I announced, “Take your winter jackets,” as one grabbed for a thin raincoat, one took a sweatshirt and a fall jacket (two thin things equal one thick?), and one stood still, stating that not only was she not going to wear a coat, but that I should go back upstairs, rummage through her closet, and find a zip-up hoodie, and that the wind, rain, and chill would simply not penetrate through this thin polyester layer. “Today is a day for coats,” I urged, and turned my heel to load the baby into the car, to get to the bus, because yes, we drive to the bus stop…it’s that far. And it was 37 degrees and pelting rain.
Some kids followed my instructions, and by some I mean the one who wears her winter coat around the house all evening long, for fun, even in the summer, and the baby, who couldn’t argue, and whom I could easily force into a jacket. The sweatshirt wearers held their ground and wanted their sweatshirts. But one child seemed to decide that it was impossible to mount the stairs and go back up to her room to get what she wanted, and standing by the door crying would definitely be the right way to get her sweatshirt on.
So, most of us got into the car, I honked, told her we were leaving, and pulled out of the driveway. She didn’t budge, but she did increase the volume of her screams so that neighbors probably thought someone was being attacked by a rabid squirrel. I noticed on the clock that at this point we were missing the bus. We generally do the miss the bus at our too-early stop (my skills at being late have definitely progressed!), and I track its route around Teaneck (another advantage of driving to the stop), trying to find it on several corners, before giving up and driving to school myself. But I was still going to try to make it to the final stop.
I ran back to the door, the rain blurring my vision, picked her up, and announced she would be going to school without any jacket today, as per her wishes. I wasn’t going to force her into a coat, and I wasn’t going to give in to her tantrum and find a sweatshirt when she had had plenty of time to do so herself. I buckled her into the car, raced to the last stop, and made it just in time.
My two calmer kids ran onto the bus, but I had to carry her there and put her on myself. The driver gave me a questioning look, and I just shrugged and said, “No coat for us today!” as he closed his doors and drove away.
Back at my car, I was wracked with guilt. I just sent my petite 5-year-old to school without anything. I was a bad mother. Maybe I should have stuffed her coat in her bag, or given it to a sibling. Maybe I should go home and drive it to school. But then, I knew we would have this struggle every day, where I lay down the rules and she stubbornly opposes them, and it would stretch and extend to so many other aspects of our lives. So I stuck with my decision, and prayed the natural consequences of the freezing, wet weather would convince her that indeed coats are beneficial, and maybe this time, Mommy is right.
That afternoon, when my kids dismounted the bus, I searched her face for any signs of emotion, of repentance or regret, or a tinge of frostbite, but she just smiled and waved. “Were you cold at all?” I asked, knowing that at least they didn’t have outdoor time due to the rain, and the bus was hopefully heated. She nodded and said when they had to walk onto the buses, she was shivering.
“I gave her my sweatshirt,” my son explained, “because I had my coat too.” I guess wearing two pseudo-warm layers had some benefits. “But she just put on the hood and wouldn’t really wear it.” He shrugged. She wouldn’t listen to him, either.
The next morning, when I attempted to wake her up, as her eyes were just begging to open, I said, “It would be a good idea to wear your coat today. It looks cold!” And she looked at me, and ever so humbly, nodded.
That afternoon, she asked if I had any gloves for her, because her hands were cold at recess. She happily put a pair in her pocket for school the next day.
Mom always wins…at least for this week.
Sarah Abenaim is an imperfect mom, and a freelance writer, living in Teaneck. She can be reached at
By Sarah Abenaim