12.31.2007

Jacket racket

A recent school day was chilly and rainy, so I urged my 8-year-old to forgo the usual windbreaker in favor of his heavier, hooded (brand-new) jacket. You'd think I'd asked him to go roll in hornets.

"No way," he said, aghast. "It makes me look too bulky."

Excuse me? It's cold. It's wet. It's windy. A jacket -- bulky or no -- seemed the perfect garment for outdoors. But my son was too concerned about current fashion trends to stay warm. With a heavy sigh, I repeated the autumn mantra used by parents coast to coast:

"Fine. Freeze all day. See if I care."

This, naturally, suited him perfectly. We went to school and he trotted out onto the playground in his sleek, non-bulky windbreaker, no doubt the Fashion Plate of the Third Grade. And, I'll bet, as soon as I was out of sight, he peeled off the windbreaker, too.

We parents worry about our kids staying warm and dry. It's cold-and-flu season after all. (Yeah, yeah, I know colds and flu are caused by viruses, not cold weather, but still...) If we insist, the kids grudgingly go along, but only until our backs are turned. Then the jacket gets removed, to be tied around the waist, stuffed in a backpack or discarded altogether. I see other kids out on the playground, cheerfully running around in T-shirts, their noses running, their skin bright red from cold. Their jackets and hats are strewn on the ground, gathering sand, which later will be deposited at home.

If the jackets make it home at all. Once a jacket has been shucked, it likely will go missing-in-action. My two sons have gone through enough outer garments over the years to outfit the Russian army. A boy wears a jacket to school and it's never seen again. I worried for a while that there was a Jacket Bully at school who swiped the warm clothing of smaller kids. But no, the coats are just lost.

Every year, I spend hours ferreting through giant lost-and-found boxes at school, in search of my sons' missing jackets. I'll find dozens of coats, scores of sweaters, literally hundreds of mismatched mittens and gloves. None of them belong to my sons. Where do theirs go? I don't know. Maybe they eat them.

On that same blustery, bulky-coat school day, my 11-year-old went to school in no coat at all. Just a sweatshirt. I asked him about his missing jacket. He had no idea where it had gone. Here was his story, and he obstinately stuck to it through repeated interrogations:

"I hung it in the hall closet, but now it's not there."

An experienced parent can see several fallacies in that statement:

A. This kid has never hung up a coat in his life.

B. If by chance the jacket HAD been hung up, it would still be there.

C. It didn't just get up and walk away, now did it?

Of course, by the time the jacket was reported missing, it was too late to do anything about it. Hunting the jacket would've meant being late for school. He went to school in his sweatshirt, happily hunkered against the cold and wet.

Grumbling, I went home and did a thorough search of the house. No jacket. Another one gone forever.

I'm sure my sons' teachers frown when the boys arrive without proper cold-weather gear. They probably think my wife and I are bad parents, letting our children go outside underdressed. But it's not our fault. We provide coats for the kids, but they either lose them or refuse to wear them because they're not "cool" enough.

Even when we let them pick out their own coats and they get exactly what they want (read: not warm enough, but at least something), the jackets go missing so quickly, they might as well have been some cheap, bulky, unfashionable models selected by idiot parents.

I don't see any solution unless we buy the boys new jackets on the way to school every morning.
Treat coats as if they're disposable.

Maybe, on rainy days, we should go the disposable route completely: Dress the boys in plastic garbage bags. Then I wouldn't feel so bad when they go missing.

And plastic bags wouldn't be bulky.

1 comment:

C said...

This is an epidemic...you're not alone!