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posted: 1/25/2012 12:01 AM

Pick up your shoes and other fatherly advice: Weary of winter wear

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By Kent McDill

Although winter was late in arriving this year, it has finally blown into town, with all of its inherent beauty and accompanying headaches.

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When I say "headaches," I am not talking about shoveling, or the hazards of driving, or the frightening possibility of the kids getting a snow day away from school. What I am referring to is the daily constant fight to get my teenage kids to dress properly for the weather.

The human body is most comfortable within a range of temperatures. Unscientifically speaking, I would guess the range is from 65 degrees to 75 degrees. A reasonable adult can tell within a few seconds of being outdoors whether they need a jacket or a coat. A reasonable parent can tell in that same amount of time how much coverage his or her children need for their outdoor activities.

But once your children reach a certain age, your knowledge on this subject (or any other, for that matter) is immaterial. When it comes to preparing for outdoor conditions, you are often judged to be flat out wrong.

Cold is one thing to dress for, and snow is another. For small children, each element presents different preparations. As the children get older, they are just two elements of winter to be ignored.

When the kids are infants, or early school age, getting them dressed for winter weather is not so much a struggle as it is a challenge. Once you get the child to stand still, you start dressing them in layers, because we have all been taught that layers are the key to warmth. If snow is involved, you get them to jump into those adorable snow pants, with the straps that go up over their tiny little shoulders. Then you go with the headgear, a knit cap maybe, or if it is cold enough you put them in a ski mask, until they tell you they can't breathe, then you take it off them and go with another option.

Next, somehow, you have to get them into their snow boots. There are two theories on how to work the snow pants with the snow boots. There is the "over'' theory, where you try to get the pants to fit over the top of the boot. Then there is the "tuck" theory, where you tuck the clothing inside the boot. It really doesn't matter. Snow will get inside the boot. You would have to shellac the child to prevent that from happening.

Then you put on the final layer, the snow jacket, and you pull the drawstring on the hood and tie it under their chin, and then they tell you they need to go the bathroom.

So you reverse the process, take care of the bodily function and then start all over again. This time, when you finally have all the pieces in place and the child looks like the Michelin Man, and they can't get their arms down because of all the clothing they are wearing, you fall prey to one of the great parenting urges of the winter. You push your child over and watch them roll around on the floor trying to get back up.

(What, you say you didn't do that? Come on, 'fess up. You did it and it was funny.)

As children get older, they want to wear less and less clothing during the winter months. A light jacket will suffice where you think a heavy one is needed. Hats and gloves are ignored. Boots are too bothersome. You fight the good fight, you threaten and cajole, and you tell them they are going to get sick if they don't dress properly.

Then they tell you they won't get sick, and then they do get sick, and you bang your head against the wall until you can't see straight, and they miss school and request soup and videos and you tell them "I told you so" and even if they agree with you, you know it won't stick.

This is one of those times when you must resist the urge to say "Wait 'til you have kids!" even though that urge is very strong. You must continue to do what's right, which is negotiate some sort of deal that makes them see the wisdom of wearing some sort of protective gear in the cold weather.

And when, as a result of that negotiated deal, you find yourself hosting a teenage party in your basement for 20 kids, you resist the urge to say to yourself, "Next time, they can just get sick."

• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.

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