This Polar Vortex isn't making parenting any easier
Terza, like most toddlers, can not abide winter gear. I can speculate as to the reasons why mittens and hats are so anathema to her - maybe she thinks the mittens delete her hands permanently from existence -- but I can't know for sure. What I do know is she will not keep them on, not if I sing like Elmo, not if I ply her with cookies. Not for any reason.
For a while I thought if I could only find the right winter gear, the problem would be solved. I tried hats that velcro under the chin and hats with long yarn braids on the sides that you can tie in Houdini-proof knots and I tried hats with bear ears and bunny ears and cat ears and rainbow-colored, fleece jester hats that virtually scream, "THIS IS FUN! THE OPPOSITE OF TORTURE!" You can guess what my success rate was, based on the number of capital letters I just used.
Fail. Total fail.
I think her record time for keeping a hat on was about 30 seconds. Ditto with the mittens. She can't manage to insert a spoonful of yogurt directly into her mouth half the time but man, can she get around knots. I tried collaborative problem-solving, not the easiest feat with a toddler, and offered the option of keeping her hood on instead. That was a non-starter. My daughter has a zero tolerance policy for garments that cover her head and hands.
Now that's all very well and good when it's 40 degrees or 30 degrees, or hell, even 20 degrees. But when a Polar vortex comes my way, and it's 4 degrees, with a wind chill that makes it feel subzero, I can't abide her not abiding winter gear. Not when we have a forty minute walk from her day care to my big kids' school and back again. We do more trekking that the Greely expedition, and if I learned anything from watching that harrowing documentary, it's: if you don't come prepared to the Arctic, you'll all end up eating each other.
Last week, with the temperature at a record low, I suited up for pick-up with a wool toboggan and leather gloves, and still, my hands and ears went numb, with pain shooting through my digits.
"Surely, she'll keep the hat and gloves on today," I thought. "At least that's what everyone keeps telling me: 'When she gets cold enough, she will wear the hat and gloves.'"
Turns out everyone underestimated my progeny's stubbornness. Not only would the child not wear her mittens, she caused me to shed mine every two blocks so that I could attempt to yank hers back on again. So we were BOTH freezing. As soon as I'd put my gloves back on and secure the wind cover onto the stroller, I'd see she'd already pulled off her mittens -- the allegedly "toddler-proof" mittens which zip up the sides and velcro closed at the wrist. After a few rounds of this delightful game, I decided to just give up on the mittens, and attempted to persuade her -- all while standing on the street corner, fighting the gale-force winds -- to please, PLEASE, tuck her hands into the cozy, criminally-fluffy stroller sleeping bag I'd zipped her lower half into. What I got was her default response: "I no LIKEIT!"
"Let her get frostbite!" you ssy. "Then she'll put on her damn gloves."
But think for a second about what an imposition a case of frostbite would be on my already hectic schedule.
I mean, I get it. There are some things -- many things -- beyond our control as parents. Some behaviors that can not be modified despite bribes, punishments, distraction techniques, and the force of reason. One of the hardest things I've learned to do as a parent is accept this and just let it go, let the natural consequences unfold. And then other times, you override your kid's aversion to winter gear with the use of duct tape.
In a moment of inspiration, I strolled Terza - screaming from the cold as much as from indignation -- right into the nearest hardware store, bought a roll of duct tape and duct-taped those mittens right on to the sleeve of her jacket. Then, when she was helpless to stop me, I yanked the pink sparkly fleece-lined hat with bear ears on her head. Cruel, awful, overbearing me. She was warm, did not require medical attention, and retained the use of all her digits. And yes, I was happy.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.