Coat of Conduct

First off: Sorry, everyone, for not posting for the past six months or so. Owing to some personal matters (OK, a miscarriage, since I hate cryptic allusions to mystery crises in other people’s online communication, but PLEASE let us never speak of it again even if it’s just to tell me you’re sorry!) I just couldn’t bring myself to write blog posts for awhile. But now I’m back and ready to update you on all the boogers and poops of my so-adorable children.

Those of you who have read my blog will doubtless remember the School Pants Debacle. If not, let me fill you in. James needed two pairs of navy slacks for preschool last spring, which meant we had to try them on in a fitting room. For some reason, the stroller did not make it to the mall with us. The resultant 900-decibel tantrum by James and gleeful prison break by Thomas earned us some amount of notoriety at The Children’s Place — nay, at the very mall itself. The School Pants Debacle is the shopping disaster by which all shopping disasters are measured in our family.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What does James hate more than school pants?”

“Nothing” is not the right answer.

Had you been there at the Big White Ski Resort Debacle, you would know that the correct answer is “jackets.” James’ hatred for parkas, coats, anoraks, hoodies, blazers, windbreakers, and anything else that goes over one’s clothes and fastens in front is so intense that we have what I call The Negative Twenty Rule. If it is above negative 20, he may wear his shirtsleeves, since at these temperatures, the jacket plus the tantrum would provide the heat necessary for our son to spontaneously ignite. If it is below negative 20, he is forced to wear his coat and the rest of us are forced to listen to his No. 1 hit single, “I-no-wear-my-jacket-no-no-no-no-no-no-Mommy-no-jacket-aaaahhhhhh-ahhhhhhhh-ahhhhhhhhhhggghhhhhh!”

His size 2 jacket was a great jacket. He wore it for two whole years, or about four times. But alas, he is no longer a size 2. And what’s worse than a jacket? Why, a new jacket, of course. James finds any new clothes disturbing. Even the new shoes he picked out himself for PE class, after much explanation about how he had to have clean new shoes to use in the gym, were the focus of a major meltdown the first day he had to wear them. So, as the weather has grown colder over the past month, I’ve been trying to warm him up to the idea of a new jacket.

“Boy, it’s chilly this morning,” I would say. “Look, your friend Andrew is wearing a jacket today.”

“Andrew’s wearing a jacket today,” James smiled back.

“Pretty soon, it will be time for you to wear YOUR jacket,” I commented cheerfully.

“I DON’T WANNA WEAR NO JACKET, MOMMY!”

“You can pick it out yourself.”

“NOOOOOOOO JACKET!”

“You can choose whichever one you like, James” I continued (mentally adding, “As long as it’s 50 percent off,” because that’s how I roll).

This conversation happened about five times, and the protests became quieter and less adamant each time. This week, since James was the only kid at school without a jacket and there was a sale at Please Mum (although, sadly, only 30 percent off), Chris and I toted the boys to the dreaded mall.

Yet again, we didn’t have the stroller, but it never hurts to have a big burly dad along to scoop up errant tots. Did I mention it was already naptime? So we had errant tots aplenty.

James and Thomas have not been shopping at the mall in quite some time (not least because I’m terrified we’ll be recognized at The Children’s Place), so they ran happily amok among the clothing while Chris and I looked for boys’ jackets in 4T.

“James, what jacket do you like best?” I asked.

“I don’t want a jacket!” he yelled in his robot voice, laughing and running in a circle around a rack with Thomas in pursuit.

“How about a blue one? Or this one with dragons? Or the cool dinosaurs?”

“A blue one!” James yelled without looking at the jackets.

We pulled a blue parka out for him.

“I don’t want that jacket!” he shouted, bug-eyed.

Then he picked out the same jacket, but in a much smaller size.

“OK, James, let’s try it on,” I said as Chris swapped the 3T for the 18 month.

“NOOOOO! I want THAT one!” James roared, pointing at a plaid number in a bid to delay wearing the dreaded jacket.

Unfortunately for James, the plaid jacket was also available in a 3.

I tried to make a game out of trying it on, putting my hand through the sleeve and tickling at him, but he was having none of it. He squirmed away from the jacket like a greased hog at the county fair. He flung himself on the ground and dared me to shove his limbs into the coat, as the world’s most annoying salesgirl hovered asking if she could help. (“Why yes, you may. Do you have any tranquilizer guns on hand?”) I knew I had to pull out the heavy artillery.

“James, if you try this jacket on, I will give you jelly beans in the car.”

“NO.”

“I will give you a LOT of jelly beans, James.” (I’m not great at bribery.)

Then, in a flash of brilliance, Chris remembered that we had just bought some Rockets (or Smarties, in the states) for me to eat on the ride home trick-or-treaters.

And grudgingly, with tears in his little bug-eyes and his brow all furrowed with anguish, James agreed to let me stuff him into his new jacket and zip it up.

And for all that, it was this close to being too small. We needed to try the next size up. But James had tried on his limit. He was done.

“James, I will give you TWICE AS MUCH CANDY!” I said brightly.

James made a noise that can only be described as The Angry Robot and bolted. We bought the 4T assuming that if it didn’t fit yet, it would soon enough. Better that than a fresh debacle.

So, crisis averted with only a little bit of crying instead of the entire mall being alerted to James’ hatred for outerwear, we made our purchase and left the store with, if not ALL our dignity intact, at least some of it. (Chris, of course, was traumatized by the shopping trip and thinks I’m crazy for pronouncing it a success. Shopping with kids for Chris is like a winter coat is for James.)

Coming soon(?): James wearing his winter coat. (Please, please let him wear it without covering the western half of Canada in snot.)

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