Each winter, I see the same scenario played out. While driving down the road, I notice packs of coatless, shivering kids huddled together at bus stops. I used to wonder why their parents would allow them to leave the house without being bundled up. Now that I have kids, I’m starting to understand.
As parents, we have to learn to pick our battles, but the coat battle is not one I ever thought I’d have to fight. Logic dictates that people will protect themselves from the elements. But I’ve discovered that kids can be woefully illogical.
My 9-year old son would wear shorts and t-shirts everyday if we let him. He believes that the skullcap his grandparents got him from Italy is sufficient to keep him warm.
My 11-year old daughter wants to be sure that her friends can see the outfits that she carefully arranges every night. A coat would ruin her look.
But the biggest surprise came from my 5-year old son. One morning the temperature dipped in the 30s (very cold for Houstonians) and my wife grabbed my son’s heavy coat. A look of horror came across his face.
“If I wear this coat,” he said, “my friends won’t think I’m cool.”
“WHAT???” I thought, “You’re only 5 years old. You’re not old enough to be cool yet.”
His reaction made me give some serious thought to this condition I’ll call coat-a-phobia. I called my mother to ask her if I ever behaved this way. She assured me that my desire to stay warm always trumped my desire to be cool. To this day, I will put on a jacket if the temperature drops below 70.
Perhaps I was just an anomaly. I decided to ask a few tweens and teenagers about their coat aversion.
Why Aren’t Kids Wearing Coats?
“I don’t like to wear coats because they make me feel heavy,” said Jordan, 12. “You can never really find the right one. It’s like it’s either gonna be too hot with the coat on or too cold with the coat off.”
Okay, I can understand his desire to feel svelte, but it still doesn’t fully explain why he would risk hypothermia. I kept asking around until I finally found a kid who actually wears coats, but his answer came with a caveat.
“I hate to wear coats except for my Dallas Cowboys coat,” said Joaquin, 13. “And I only wear it because I’m a Cowboys’ fan. Otherwise I wouldn’t wear a coat. They are uncomfortable.”
Although these two young men are not fans of coats, they agreed that hoodies were adequate outerwear on even the coldest days.
I finally got to the crux of the matter when Khalil, 17, a star athlete and popular young man, revealed the source of his coat-a-phobia.
“I don’t like to wear them. They make me feel like a little kid. I remember how silly I felt when my mom made me wear those big coats. Now that I have a choice, I choose not to wear one.”
It turns out that coat-a-phobia is more about freedom than comfort. Kids would rather freeze than relinquish their willpower. We’ve all experienced this desire to pull away from our parents and make our own decisions. It’s a natural part of growing up. I only wish that this issue didn’t come with the threat of frostbite.