Kids hate a lot of things—broccoli, bedtime, going to the dentist. But as the mom of a 4- and 7-year-old, the thing I probably spend the most time arguing about with my kids is winter coats.
A few weeks ago, my 7-year-old and I had an epic fight about her coat. It was 34 degrees outside, and I, being the totally unfair mother that I am, wanted her to wear a real coat, not just the flimsy little zip-up hoodie she’d chosen. It was a battle of epic proportions, with me threatening to take away her most prized possessions and her lamenting that coats are “toooo hot, Moooom.”
Ultimately, I won and she begrudgingly walked to the bus stop in her coat, shooting daggers at me with her eyes the whole way. It was genuinely cold out, but if I’m being honest, what motivated me to force her to wear her coat was that I knew that if she walked to the bus stop without a real coat on, at least one person, somewhere, would look at her and wonder why we she had such a crappy, neglectful mom who couldn’t even be bothered to put winter clothes on her kid.
And I wasn’t wrong.
No sooner had I returned from the bus stop when I saw a post on Next Door slamming some other mom in the neighborhood for her coatless child. A neighbor wrote that she’d just seen a boy walking into school sans coat. Scandalized, the woman called the school’s front office and tattled on the boy’s parents and she begged parents to please protect kids from the cold.
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I imagined that other kid’s mom, like me, fighting with her child to please put some damn clothes on that morning. I wondered if that’s what they do every morning, or if he has sensory issues that make it impossible to put a coat on him or if his parents can’t afford to buy him a winter coat. Whatever the case, this random neighbor saw him and thought the best course of action was to alert the school and then post a shamey call-out on social media.
And she certainly isn’t the only one who thinks that way.
Earlier this winter, a post went viral that asked people to stop shaming moms whose small babies aren’t wearing winter coats. It explained that it’s actually unsafe for children to wear heavy coats in car seats, so if people see babies without coats, they shouldn’t “assume the parent is some kind of monster who doesn’t care if their kids freeze.”
They will post about you on social media, walk up and ask where your child’s coat is, call your child’s school.
Because that’s many people’s first reaction. Strangers will look at your coatless child and assume that you are a neglectful, lazy, uncaring “monster.” They will post about you on social media, walk up and ask where your child’s coat is, call your child’s school. And, to these people, I say: Enough.
If a child is truly being abused, by all means, step in. But if you get a 30-second window into someone’s life that happens to come at the exact moment that their child is refusing to wear a coat during the walk from the car to Target, mind your own business. There are a million reasons why a kid might not be wearing a coat. And, more importantly, not wearing a coat is not going to kill them.
“Even my boys don’t want to wear a coat when it is cold outside,” says Dr. Jarrett Patton, the author of "Whose Bad @$$ Kids Are Those? A Parent’s Guide to Behavior tor Children of all Ages." Like most of us, he still forces his children to bundle up, but he adds that the real risks of going sans coat for a brief period of time are small.
“Typically short distances or times in the cold won’t bother them much,” he tells Mom.me. “However, a problem occurs when a short time becomes a long time. If they are exposed to prolonged cold temperatures, frostbite or hypothermia can result, which can cause serious problems.”
As a mother, I can tell you there isn’t a single second that my kids are outside in the cold that I haven’t fought to get their wiggly fingers into gloves, their wobbly heads into hats, their writhing bodies into coats, their kicking feet into boots. But sometimes, when it’s only moderately cold and I’ve been fighting World War Coat for a solid half hour, the best thing I can do is allow my kids to walk from the car to the grocery store, get a few goosebumps, and realize that I was right.
If that bothers you, well, I’ve got a few extra coats you can use to muffle the sound of your unsolicited advice.