Battle over the Sweatshirt

On Monday, when I forced my fourteen year old to bring his sweatshirt to school because it was below freezing, he leaped out of the car at the school’s west gate, slammed the door, and turned to smile at me, pointing at the passenger seat and running off. He wore shorts and a short-sleeve polo. His sweatshirt was still in the car.

On Tuesday, it was 27 degrees when I drove him to school. I had shoved the sweatshirt into his backpack when he wasn’t looking. He was wearing shorts again. At 3:00, when I picked the kids up, he smiled. “I didn’t even take it out of my backpack.”

I knew what he was talking about.

Today, it was 24 degrees. Shorts. I gave up on the sweatshirt. A coat? Ha!

I just want to understand why.

Does he have a reputation for wearing shorts all year? Is he trying to break some ridiculous “I wore shorts” for the most consecutive days of anyone at school? Prove his manhood? Did someone say he looks like a dork in jeans? Is he an alien who doesn’t feel cold?

Or is this just what boys do to entertain themselves in winter?

Flasback: Winter, 1982-ish

On this 15-degree morning, when I dropped my boys off at school, I ordered our seventh grader to pull on his coat. He had chosen to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and was not planning to wear a coat until I marched him back inside to get it. As his mother, I told him, his poor judgment would reflect badly on me.

“You’re putting that coat on before you get out of the car.”

Driving away, amused by the common middle school boy rejection of long pants, a memory came to me of one winter day a long time ago. My friend wasn’t feeling well during our school day, and I had the honor of walking her to the nurse’s office. Mrs. Queen’s office was in another building, so it offered a change of scenery, a break from class, and public recognition that I was a good enough friend to the ailing student to be the one selected to accompany her.

I never got to know Mrs. Queen as well as some of my friends, though, because I was never sick. I just escorted the sick people to her, and I found her intimidating. I guess that’s why this winter memory stands out.

We walked into her office and announced our reason for being there. It smelled like antiseptic and band-aids.

Rather than address my ailing friend, Mrs. Queen peered down at me.

“Zip up that coat, young lady. Are you trying to get sick?!”

My friend ended up being sent home with a fever, and I, perfectly healthy, zipped my coat and returned to class, unaware that this would be a memory that shaped how I parent my seventh grade son.


Winter Blues

There are ski people and snow shovelers.

Ski people are not necessarily skiers. They are merely people who get giddy over snow. They love unpacking their winter gear and pulling on a big, comfy sweater. Their skin still glows despite the dry air that leaves snow shovelers looking twice their age. They celebrate snow days with a big sledding adventure and steaming mugs of hot cocoa. And in Colorado, they are on the slopes for the first run of the day – whooping it up and smiling ear to ear.

I am a snow shoveler. Snow means only that I have to wake up early to dig us out. My mood plummets the day the pool closes from the mere anticipation of the coming cold. Wool makes me itch. My skin cracks. Long walks move from sunny trails to the basement treadmill. The kids get stir crazy. The dog’s wet paws track prints all over our wood floors. And smiling freezes my front teeth.

I wish I could be a ski person. I am surrounded by them. You would hope that their enthusiasm and rosy-cheeked celebration of winter would rub off. But every morning, the snow shoveler in me wakes up wishing it were 80 degrees and I were cheering on the kids at a swim meet, golf tournament or baseball game.

…and it’s only December.

Another Lesson Learned about Judging Other Moms

Parenting is a highly reiterative lesson on the folly of judging others, yet it seems to take many little ah-ha moments for me to learn.

Driving through morning carpool as the seasons change, there is a diverse array of garb. The girls in first grade start wearing tights with their cute little skirts. Overnight, the boys in second grade might trade their shorts and t-shirts for a Broncos sweatshirt and jeans. A few of the little ones even march onto campus in jackets.

Then there is the boy who stands with his too skinny shoulders hunched, hands stuffed in pockets, shivering in shorts and pledging allegiance to the flag during all-school outdoor assembly. Or the girl who has grown inches since spring, revealing bare, knobby knees and goose-bumped arms as snowflakes land in her hair.

And as a mom of little ones, you can’t help but think, “Who is his mother?” Or “Where are her parents? She is going to freeze to death!”

Well, after years of judging other parents for their lack of control over their child’s clothing decisions, I know who his mother is.

It’s me. The mom of middle school boys who wear shorts in winter and no sweatshirts at recess. They refuse to wear a jacket to stay warm when the morning frost still glistens, just in case the afternoon sun makes them look like dorks carrying winter coats.

It was not long ago, when that bothered me. No more.

It is not that I care less about whether they catch pneumonia, or less about how they present themselves to others, or less about how I am judged as a parent. I do remind them a hundred times or more. But I know that when they can’t take it anymore – well before they die of hypothermia – they will decide on their own to dress sensibly.

And I am focused much more on preparing them to be good, hard-working, kind, successful, happy young men… who may look a bit ridiculous in the year’s first snow.