little girl in the snowThe temperature dipped down in the 30s the other day in my neck of the woods. It's November in the Northeast. It happens. But if you were driving through my hood, you might have seen a girl in a pair of shorts and a short-sleeve shirt standing outside on the soccer field and thought, What kind of crappy mother lets her kid outside without a coat on in the cold?

Ahem. Guilty!

I let my daughter go out in the cold without a coat on. You gotta problem with that? Of course you do!

There's nothing like a kid out in the cold without her coat to get the judgy mommy tongues a wagging, is there? It's like Christmas came early!

But allow me to drop a bit of coal in your stocking, love.

It's not that my daughter doesn't have a coat. She has at least three of them of varying levels of warmth. She has two hats, a nice scarf, and heaven knows how many pairs of gloves too.

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She also has a mind of her own, and a stubborn streak a mile long.

Sound familiar, anyone? Anyone? Any of the moms with the perfect kids who have never covered the dog in glitter or smuggled their Halloween candy into their bedroom and gorged on it all want to weigh in here?

No? OK, we'll carry on then.

At 8 years old, my kid thinks she knows better than her parents about 97 percent of the time. About 7 percent of the time she's right, and I'm pleased as punch to be raising a smart, directed, strong female.

And then there's the other 90 percent, during which I'm engaged in a battle with an opponent armed with barbs like "But it's not faaaaair" and "Nobody else's mom makes them do that!"

Much of the time said battles seem to center around the horror of making someone wear long sleeves when we could store ice cream on the front porch and still find it hard as a rock three hours later.

At one point I purchased one of those small electronic thermometers that showed not only the temperature inside and outside of our house, but a small child wearing clothing appropriate to the outside temperature. The idea was that if she didn't take my word for it, at least she'd see the little girl on the LCD screen all bundled up and consider adding a coat.

Sometimes it worked! Sometimes.

But you see, oh Mom whose kids are bundled up like the Michelin man and happy about it, the older my daughter gets, the less I'm finding these battles worthy of my time.

So she says she doesn't want to wear a coat? Fine! I'll suggest it. I'll explain that it's 34 degrees outside, and I will be putting on my wool peacoat, gloves, and a scarf, and then I will let her decide what to do.

Sometimes she doesn't wear the coat. Usually it happens at the beginning of winter, like on the day of her last soccer game a few weeks back. She's still getting used to this whole "cold is here to stay" thing, and so she bucks my authority.

We go outside, and she gets cold.

Good and cold.

She then spends the rest of her time outside complaining about said cold, while I just stand there and nod. I could suggest she go get a coat, but I know better. She has to come to that decision on her own, has to learn that her actions have consequences.

Usually she does. After a few frigid mornings at the bus stop or one soccer game turns her legs into popsicles, she's all good to go for another winter. We may have a few hiccups along the way, but I just lather, rinse, and repeat the aforementioned steps, and she figures it out. The coat becomes attractive again.

Of course, I've suffered the sidelong glances and the wide-eyed looks. I've seen the moms whispering, and although I can't hear them, I know they're asking, "What kind of mother lets her kid out without a coat in this weather?"

So I'll tell you what kind of mother: the kind who wants her child to learn to make good decisions. It's not enough to train our kids to do what they're told. One day we're not going to be there to tell them, and I want my daughter to be able to figure out the right course of action when that happens.

Honestly, the coat is just the beginning. The older she gets, the more I'm realizing I have to let her suffer the consequences of poor decisions so she will learn to make good ones.

Just wait until the other moms find out what happens to her when she refuses to wipe the dried toothpaste off her chin at the bus stop.

Do you make your kids wear their coat? How far will you go when they're fighting you about it?

 

Image by Jeanne Sager