Choose your battles.
It is without doubt the most significant parenting advice a young mom can embrace.
And it always comes up at this time of year, as the morning mercury sinks to several degrees below brrrrrr.
The relative benefits of having children leave the house properly dressed for the weather are far outbalanced by the familial stress that conversation creates on a daily basis.
Zip up your coat. No.
Where’s your hat? It’s itchy.
Don’t forget your mittens. Mittens are for babies.
By late June the futility of these demands is always apparent. Any school hallway north of 49th parallel looks as though it’s suffered the explosion of a Wal-Mart winter clearance rack.
All those clothes you thought your kids were actually wearing out for recess are retrieved from their hidey holes and piled up for parents to pick through, take home, and fight about again in six months time.
Keep your eye on the ball. It is far more important to raise a child who is smart enough to come in out of the rain than it is to grow one whom you can force into a pair of mud boots.
When their hands are red, raw and numb, they will at least shove them in their pockets. The cold, you know, does not give children colds. Those are germs.
The young have rapid metabolisms. They don’t feel chill in the same way as adults. Also, when kids hit a certain age it is generally accepted that it’s not “cool” to be dressed “warm.” There is no acceptable explanation for that fact, but it remains true.
At least, those were the things I used to tell myself Monday to Friday as the DeMeer boys head out to meet the bus in their sneakers with their laces trailing behind them and their jackets flapping open, bending their uncovered heads against the elements.
Irrespective of cold weather, the DeMeer cubs have dressed themselves from the time they were each able to open a bag of pull-ups. Do the math. A typical morning for one mom and four kids, – that’s eight hands to two – lunches need to be packed, homework has to be signed, toast and toothpaste fly in every direction. As long as their attire wasn’t actually breaking any laws it was sheer survival to push them out the door.
Overheard in the DeMeer kitchen at 7:40 a.m.: But why can’t I wear my pajamas if I want to? Silence while Mom tries to think of a sustainable argument as to why a kid can’t wear pajamas all day. You know something? There isn’t one.
Over the years this approach resulted in some truly bizarre ensembles and more than one phone call home from the teacher’s lounge. On the bright side closing your eyes and biting your tongue buys a lot of peace in a family. Always I limited comments to non-judgmental, fact-based observations, ie: Your shirt is on backwards.
Some days were harder than others.
There is always at least one Mom and tot in every Kindergarten cloakroom arriving every morning looking as if they just stepped out of a photo shoot for the Sears catalogue. Colors coordinated, seams pressed, accessories match and they are smiling.
Don’t take pity looks from these people. Think: Stepford called, they want their foundation garments back.
There was an awkward Sunday morning, when the DeMeer’s own tiny princess sat, knees akimbo, on the steps of the chancel for “Children’s Time,” frocked in a frothy dress with a tooled skirt and absolutely no underwear.
Perseverance is the key. Today each of the DeMeer kids is capable of putting together a smart outfit without assistance.
At this point if there was absolutely one thing I would choose that my children must, must wear no matter what…
…it would be condoms.
Also we would prefer not to see them in handcuffs.
Choose your battles.
Andrea DeMeer is the editor of the Similkameen Spotlight in Princeton.