Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Where's your jacket?


My seven-year-old was getting ready for school. It was 16 degrees. She was going on an excursion to Queenscliff, a picturesque seaside town where the wind blows in from Antarctica. ‘It’ll be freezing,’ I said, ‘wear your ski jacket.’ ‘Ok,’ she said.

In the maelstrom of getting kids out of the house, I didn’t look at her closely. We arrived at school. She was wearing a hoodie. The wind cut through her like a knife, and she started jiggling up and down with her arms wrapped around herself. ‘Where’s your ski jacket?’ I asked. She looked at me blankly. Of course, she hadn’t worn it. Nor had she worn her other warm coat; and it quickly transpired that she had taken her raincoat out of her bag some time ago and had never put it back.

‘I’m wearing my bathers,’ she said helpfully, pulling up her top to show me her tankini.


Mostly, I’m a great believer in natural consequences. A kid won’t wear a jacket? Fine, she’ll be cold. But she was heading off on a full day’s excursion, and she was going to catch pneumonia. Worse, the bus was leaving right after the bell; I had no chance to rush home, grab a jacket, and save her.

I berated my daughter, then beat myself up for not double checking and not communicating clearly. Angrily I asked myself what sort of mother doesn’t look at her children properly before they head out the door.

Then, tears of frustration and shame in my eyes, I went and stood with the other parents to wave the kids off on their big adventure.

And there I found the answer to my question: a normal mum. I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t enforced jacket and gloves. One mum was grumbling that her son had snuck out wearing only a light long sleeved top – she only noticed when he lined up, teeth chattering. A couple of kids were in t-shirts; a few were wearing shorts. I was regaled with half a dozen stories of children in inadequate clothing as I watched the ragtag bunch get onto the bus, some dressed for the tropics and others for the snow. I told the story of my daughter and the tankini and everyone laughed, and I felt much better.

I don’t know why I was so angry with myself that day. But I am grateful, so grateful, that my daughter is in a class with a bunch of ragamuffins, the children of parents who are just as scatty as me as they race out the door every morning.


  1. I know what you mean!!
    Every rainy after school pick up I see Mums and dads with one umbrella for themselves and one or two under the arm for their kids. Then there is me, no umbrella for myself or the little one in tow, or the two munchkins that will soon look like drowned rats that will be awaiting. Bless em they never complain though, because I have never shown up that prepared for anything let alone the rain.
    I do however always feel like a major failure because at our school I am the only one.
    Ahhh stuff them and their preparedness, you are normal Alison and maybe I am too.

    1. umbrellas!!! never in my house, just another thing to lose, forget, poke someone's eye out. I so admire organised parents, but I'm glad I have friends who also can't manage swimming lessons or raincoats and laugh (sigh) with me as we all squelch home in the pouring rain.

  2. When I was a child - I used to behave the same :)


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