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Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Yankee in the South in December

On a balmy November day, I peel a crying preschooler out of the car seat to carry him into school. Okay, it isn’t actually BALMY. It is SUPPOSED to be balmy. At noon. At 9 a.m., it’s chilly. I have a sweatshirt for E on my arm but this tearful tot would not wear it and asking him brings on our third or fourth crying spell (I’ve lost count). At this point the only thing that I am grateful for is that my seven-month-old is home with the hubby.

Mustering some mom-ness while I lug forty-sniffling-pounds through the parking lot, I think: I pick my battles carefully. As a (hypothetical?) example, if E were to ask to eat Sour Patch Kids for breakfast one of these temper tantrum mornings, I would say: Yum!

Lost in thought, I avoid being crushed by the front door and am almost to E’s classroom when an ever-so-kind mom says: Still short-sleeves? (Is there a punctuation mark for condescending?)

Instinctually, I am overwhelmed with the desire to seem like a good mom. I attempt to look around my sobbing son at the sweatshirt on my arm, perhaps to motion to it and say: I pick my battles? Ending the comment with a bit of a question mark so she can say: Oh yes. Me, too. You are doing great. What a sweet boy.

And then the Yankee or Teenager or Witch with a B growls: Maybe that’s why he’s crying. He SOOOO cold.

(Well, I don’t actually SAY that. But I think it REALLY REALLY INTENSELY at her as she walks past us and out the door.)

But I am so angry. I am no longer walking -- I am MARCHING into the classroom. (Perhaps muttering to myself other witty comebacks.) And glaring. I drop him off and march back to my car daring someone to comment on my parking job or hot-pink sweatpants. BRING IT ON!

Once in the car I pause and breathe and wonder why I am so upset. Well, like many moms, I am plagued with insecurity and often overwhelmed with my own personal baggage-claim area. Children are fun-house mirrors to a parent’s shortcomings. My impatience. My self-centeredness. My desire to LOOK GOOD. I struggle with these everyday - it just depends on which suitcase is rotating by me.

Finally, I ask myself: Am I a mom who underdresses her kids?

I definitely hate being hot myself. I am definitely lazy and don’t like going back upstairs for a sweater when I know that the afternoon will be warm. And I definitely don’t believe a cold child will get sick, but I do know that a hot child will get cranky.

As I continue to ponder my worth as a mother, I look around the parking lot at E’s bundled-up classmates. And I realize the truth...

I dress my children VERY appropriately and everyone in the South does NOT.

Sound defensive, do I? Wait. I have proof:

My children:

70 degrees and up: short-sleeves and probably shorts.

50-70 degrees: long-sleeve shirt and pants and maybe a sweatshirt at the low end. no socks.

30-50 degrees: all of the above with a coat and maybe a hat at the low end. no socks. unless it’s snowing. which it doesn’t.

Southern children:

70 degrees and up: pants. probably a light sweater.

50-70 degrees: coat, hat, pants, long-sleeves, socks. maybe an umbrella.

30-50 degrees: everything above plus long-johns. Long-johns? Yup. And, of course, there is always the one parent who complains that our kids go out in “this weather” at all.

(If it ever gets to be ten degrees here, I’m pretty sure the other parents will have to roll their kids into school in double-snowsuits and a parka. And I’ll be happy if I can find E’s socks.)

I grew up in New England. I lived through three-day snowstorms without starving to death. I remember breaking out the bathing suit and baby oil on sixty-degree days. And look how my wrinkly-self turned out. I have NEVER needed long-johns.

Facts are facts. When there is the possibility of it being in the seventies in December and my child thinks snow comes in a globe, we wear short-sleeves in the winter. Like RIGHT NOW. Because. Because I’ve got to toughen them up in case we move back North. Because I don’t want the New England moms to say: Jackets already?

I don’t have a good comeback to that one yet.

This post is written by Alex Iwashyna, a happily married mom with a BA in Philosophy and a Medical Degree and the drive to become neither. She is hopefully this writing thing will pan out. Follow her rants on but be prepared for baby poop and liberal bias.

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