Does How You Dress Your Kids for Cold Weather Say Something About You As a Parent?

I refuse to be late because someone can't find a particular hat or pair of mittens. Next time, I tell them, start looking earlier. We're outta here.
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For years, my husband and I have argued about how to dress the kids for cold weather (given that we have five kids ranging in age from 23 to 9, this argument truly has been going on for a while). He says I don't dress them warmly enough. I say he overdoes it.

After all these years, I still think I'm right. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the way he does things.

I was the kind of kid who wore a jean jacket all winter (and no, I did not grow up somewhere warm). I just didn't care. Being efficient and getting places on time (both made more difficult by multiple layers of clothing) were more important to me than being really warm. It made my parents nuts, which I didn't understand: It seemed to me that it was my problem if I was cold, not theirs.

That is how I think of it as a parent, too. Yes, I make sure that my children own warm clothing and that we make every effort to locate it before leaving the house. And when they were little (like kindergarten and younger), I made a reasonable effort to bundle them up. But at this point, I figure that if they are cold, they will know to dress more warmly next time, and I've got more important things to do than obsess over how many layers each child is wearing, or whether the socks, coat or gloves are the warmest available. And I refuse to be late because someone can't find a particular hat or pair of mittens. Next time, I tell them, start looking earlier. We're outta here.

For my husband, on the other hand, dressing for the weather is a very serious matter. When the kids were little, he put so much on them that they literally couldn't move (or, I would point out, fit in the carseat). He dresses himself the same way (he loves lined jeans and thick sweaters, which make me itch and sweat just thinking about them). As the weather gets cold every year, he does an inventory of all of our outerwear, digs out the warmest coats from the attic and closet, finds the boots, washes the hats and gloves. He makes suggestions to everyone in the morning, sometimes laying things out for them. (This morning my youngest wouldn't wear the down vest under his coat -- "It really didn't work yesterday, Mom.") He gets really frustrated with the kids when they don't follow his suggestions (he's been known to yell at our 13-year-old, who values fashion over warmth -- you'd think that by the fourth time around he'd realize convincing an adolescent to dress warm is futile).

You might think that this means that my husband is the planner in the marriage. Nope. That's totally me. I'm the calendar and appointment-maker, the one who coordinates activities, homework and talks with teachers and coaches, who keeps track of grades, makes the plans for summer camp and birthday parties and makes sure the bills get paid, who supervises college applications and carpools, who listens to all the latest drama and gives advice (which I try to do only when asked, it's better that way). I am the Big Picture Parent, the one who worries and does everything possible to make everything work.

My husband is the Small Picture parent. He is much more about the creature comforts of life, and about the little things. He is the one who is more likely to bake cookies or buy a gift to cheer someone up. He is the one who is more likely to notice a sunset, stop to listen to a fun song on the radio or the song of a bird, or appreciate a soft blanket, especially when he is wrapping it around one of us. He is most happy when things are beautiful and perfect -- and when we are happy. Most of all, he is happiest when he is taking care of us.

So, yeah, we're unlikely to ever agree on outerwear -- but that's okay. As with various other issues in life and marriage, we've agreed to disagree. Because not only does it ultimately not matter -- the kids are going to be okay whether they are a bit too cold or a bit too warm -- but it's good that our kids have both a Big Picture and a Small Picture parent.

Whether they are cold or warm, they are loved.

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