Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Great Coat Debate

Did you think we'd fallen off the earth? Been stabbed to death by Mama Ex? Buried in dirty clothes from our stepkids?

No...we just got lazy and forgot to write for three months. It happens.

But yesterday something snapped me (Ruby) back to the land of reality. As I stood there, unsure what to do, I realized that I cannot possibly be the only stepmom (or mom for that matter) dealing with this crisis. Surely all the other stepmom bloggies out there are experiencing the same things as me.

Because it's winter. And winter means coats. And coats are like Kryptonite laced with heroin dipped in hummus for children.

It all started Monday morning, when I saw the temperature was going to be 28 degrees as the kids headed off to the bus. For those of you who flunked Science (like me), 28 degrees means BELOW freezing. As in, "Oh, I think I'll have a glass of water outside, but I can't because it turned into an ICE CUBE."

Hubs and I are usually pretty lenient when it comes to what the kids wear to school in winter. It was this side of 15 years ago that we were the ones schlepping off to school in whatever concoction our parents forced us into. Myself? I can clearly remember going to my 7th grade locker in slush-covered purple moon boots. That's right. Purple. Moon snow boots. And this was way before "Napoleon Dynamite" made them trendy. It didn't really matter to the other kids that I had Doc Martens in my book bag because I had to change out of my PURPLE MOON BOOTS before I could put the Docs on. I was ridiculed and laughed at, and I swore I'd never let my children feel that humiliation.

So, do I force my stepkids into galoshes, hats, scarves, thermal underwear and ski goggles? No. Do I hem and haw all over them, checking for any piece of skin that might be exposed to the deathly elements outside? Hardly. Do I insist that when it's below freezing they at least wear a light jacket?

Effing right, I do.

You would think I asked my 13-year-old step daughter to please cut off her right hand and place it in the donation bucked for underprivileged countries to use.

It went a little something like this:

Me: Hey honey, the temp is 28 degrees right now.You need a coat today.

M: But Ruby! You said I didn't have to because you're picking me up from school today!!!!!

Me: (chuckles) Um, no, what I said was, you don't have to wear your heavy, fur-lined winter coat today. But you at least have to wear your heavy sweatshirt or your light puffy coat.

M: (lip quivering) But...but...but, I DON'T HAVE ANYWHERE TO PUT IT!!!!! WAHHHHHH!!!!!

Me: That's why the school gave you that metal box called a locker, silly.


Me: (speaking softly) Okay, M, here's the deal. When I tell you to wear your glasses at school, and you don't do it, I don't say anything. When I ask you to please not wear the same shirt three days in a row and you do it anyway, I don't say anything. When I beg you to make sure all the shampoo gets washed out of your hair, and then I see you walking around with chunks of Tresseme on your scalp, I don't. say. anything. But this is your health. This is so I don't have to visit you in the hospital while you lose a finger to frost bite. You are going to wear a coat. I don't care what you do with it once you get to school. Hide it behind a trash can for all I care, but you are going to wear a coat, and that's the end.

M: (crosses arms and glares) Mommy doesn't care if I wear a coat or not!!!

Oh no she didn't.

For most stepchildren, this is a textbook bluff. It's easy to say "Mommy let's me do this" or "Mommy doesn't make me do that" because kids figure there's no way for their parent to verify the truth. After all, Mom and Dad want to speak to each other about as much as cats want to take a hot, steamy bath. But in this case, M wasn't bluffing. Mama Ex truly does not care if her children wear a coat in sub-zero weather. Or if they wear their glasses. Or if they brush their teeth. Or change their underwear. (We've talked about this before.)

So how are Hubs and I supposed to respond to this? I know it's not healthy to begin a verbal diatribe on Mama Ex's life choices that have left her broke, miserable and all together unhappy. But it's so damn tempting.

In the end, I took a deep breath and said, "What Mommy chooses to let you do is her business. But Daddy and I want you to be healthy, and that means wearing a coat. This is not negotiable."

And I walked away.

And felt guilty. How is that possible? How can I possibly feel guilty for making my stepchild do something that is right? And will I forever be battling this woman whom I hardly ever see but am constantly being compared to? When she grows up someday, will M look back and remember that her mother would rather be her friend and appease her than to have a confrontation and actually be a parent?
The worst part of all of this is what hit me yesterday. Hubs and I only have the kids two mornings a week for school. This means that the other three days, Mama Ex is sending them out into the cold with no coats. And when they get sick (and they will), WE PAY FOR THE INSURANCE THAT MAKES THEM BETTER.

How's that for irony?

What battles do you fight with Mama Ex that seem to never end? Do you make your stepkids wear coats in freezing temps?


  1. My hubs ex at least has the coat thing down. The rest is on par with your situation.
    Dont feel guilty. Ever. Use the, "Well you'll be back at your mom's house soon enough and can freeze your ass off then" line and wash your hands of the matter.
    Just give them some extra oj at breakfast and hope they don't get sick.
    Best of luck!

    1. It's so hard not feel guilt, though. Ugh. It's a struggle.

      I load them up with vitamins (something they don't get at home) and hope for the best!! Thanks for commenting!

  2. First, I'm so glad you are blogging again! I love your blogging/writing style. Second, I have a 12 and 15 year old. My 12 yo is 50/50 and my 15yo lives with us full time. I can relate to your conversation with your 13yo...especially the excuse about there being no where to put the coat and how there is no time to go to the lockers. I am impressed that you don't give her a hard time about all of those other things. I will share that I do address their clothing choices with them whenever I think it is necessary. We live somewhere that the temps don't get below freezing very often at all. So, coats are rarely an issue but they are at times and it is a huge battle every time.

    As far as the "Mommy doesn't care if I wear a coat or not" comment...well, we get a little bit of this kind of thing from my oldest, less from my youngest (her Mom is more strict than we are). It makes it easier that we have 50/50 with one and full with the other...so, it's easier to point out that each parent has different, yet equal value in creating parenting rules and values. We always say that their Moms love them and make parenting decisions based on what they think is best and we do the same. We think differently than their Mom and step dads on things, but neither viewpoint is wrong or right.

    It's very hard! It sounds like you have a very good handle on it, though. Keep up the great work staying true to yourself.

    1. I'm glad you enjoy the blog! It always feel good to hear that!

      I have had many conversations with people about the coats, and I feel like it's pretty evenly split. Some don't care, and some really do. To me, I know my SD is just pitting Mama Ex against us because she can, and in this case, I ain't falling for it! But it's a day to day decision on which battles we fight.

      Thanks for your comments; keep 'em coming!!