CARNIVAL OF ONE: “I THINK YOUR BABY IS COLD”

This post is my response to the March blog carnival topic on dealing with questions, concerns and judgements in relation to unconventional parenting decisions. There were no other contributions for this month’s carnival, so next month I will give a little bit more lead time for submissions, which should hopefully enable more bloggers to participate. 🙂 So without further ado…

Toasty warm, wearing a hat, mitts and a bib, but no jacket.

Oliver has a snowsuit, which has been worn precisely seven times. Three of those times were for snowshoeing or winter sailing. He does not own any other winter coats or pants. Most days, I take him out in pants and a short-sleeved shirt, with a sweater, hat, and shoes or boots. Sometimes we even skip the sweater. And now that he can quite deftly remove his own hat, he goes hatless with increasing frequency.

Oliver has a mid-weight bundle bag in his stroller, and it keeps him cozy and warm. On the few occasions I have put an extra layer on him, for example, if we were going to the park and I knew he was going to spend any significant amount of time outside the stroller, he has been overheated and sweaty when I removed him from the stroller.

So why is this at all controversial? Well, it appears that perfect strangers, accustomed to seeing infants bundled to the nines in winter, feel compelled to share their views on how I dress my baby. I’ve heard so many comments that it has gotten to the point where I actually start to feel defensive when people so much as look at Oliver that certain way — you know, that look that is simultaneously judgmental and pitying.

The looks and comments have made me acutely aware that I am probably one of few parents who dresses my baby this way on cold days. I don’t deliberately draw attention to Oliver’s (lack of) winter attire, but whenever I have to remove him from the stroller, it is there for every judgemental stranger to see… and to comment on.

At least once a week, some well-intentioned passerby will politely inform me, “I think your baby is cold.” This has even happened indoors, inside of stores, where I often take Oliver out of the bundle bag so he doesn’t get too warm. The worst times, though, are those where I have removed Oliver from the stroller to carry him because he was crying, and people have come up to me tell me that my baby (now in my arms) is crying is because he is cold. Usually, I shamefully mutter something about Oliver being a warm baby, and make my escape as quickly as possible.

A few weeks ago, en route to a community centre program, Oliver and I made a brief stop in a café next door to the centre. It was cold and rainy outside, and he had been ensconced in his stroller and covered with the plastic rain shield. I removed him from the stroller while we were in the café, and upon leaving, decided that it was easier for us to just dash next door as-is than to go through the rigamarole of putting him back in the stroller and zipping up the rain shield. So we made a run for it. In the rain. With no jackets.

When I arrived in the centre and stepped into the elevator, I got that look. For once, I pre-empted the impending comment, looked straight at the woman, and joked, “Yeah, I know. I’m a horrible, neglectful parent. But hey, he’s a hardy Canadian boy. He can take it.” She laughed and immediately started backtracking.

I don’t know why I find myself so bothered by this rather trivial issue; perhaps because it happens so frequently. And let’s face it, nobody enjoys being on the receiving end of unsolicited judgements and comments.

I’m not going to yield to public pressure and dress Oliver warmer than is comfortable for him, but I am truly at a loss for a way to politely, yet firmly, respond to let folks know that their input is unsought.

How do you respond when someone gives you unsolicited feedback on your parenting decisions?

17 responses to “CARNIVAL OF ONE: “I THINK YOUR BABY IS COLD”

  1. How do I respond? Well, if I disagree with them, I tell them I disagree with them. If they say, “I think your baby is cold”, (Yeah, it’s happened to us, too – I dress J the same way as you…dude, it’s hardly ever below 5 in this city…snow suits are NOT necessary in our climate. Period.) I respond with, “Nope, she’s not. Just hungry / tired / bored.”

    Some people cannot help themselves from offering an opinion….I don’t really begrudge them. Now that we’ve all ‘been there’ (read: motherhood) we all feel like fricken gladiators on some days – ready to take on the world! and why not!?!? We ARE fricken gladiators! So to have an opinion is fair enough, I think….but they should be willing to listen to your response and to rationally expect that you, as his MOMMA, will know what’s what!

    • True story: I was in the washroom at YVR, having just changed Oliver’s diaper. He had been fed immediately prior to the diaper change. Well, he didn’t much care for the hard plastic changing table and was absolutely wailing as I washed my hands. Some woman walks into the washroom and says, “I think your baby is hungry.” I tell her he’s just been fed. Then she says, “He probably needs his diaper changed.” I grit my teeth and politely tell her I have just finished changing him. But what I really wish I’d said was, “I know my baby is only weeks old and I look like a total amateur, but do you not think that the first things I think of whenever my baby cries are when he was last fed and when he was last changed? Do I really look *that* obtuse that I wouldn’t have already considered those things?”

  2. That is too funny. I think whipping out the humour is a good way to handle it. It must be a Canadian thing. Here in sunny Santa Cruz, the weather changes so much throughout the day that we can wear whatever and not stand out too terribly much. Ah, well, he hasn’t suffered from frostbite yet; you must be, at least, doing the bare minimum to ensure that your offspring survives the cold winter. 🙂

    My daughter frequently asserts her will about what to wear and it isn’t always what I would consider weather appropriate. I bring along extra jackets, sweaters and whatnot because I want to keep her warm, but she simply isn’t cold. I watch her running around the playground in a sun dress on a grey day with her friends who are contentedly bundled to the nines and wonder if I am somehow neglectful as a parent for not forcing her to wear a jacket. I sometimes have to just let it go and realize that if she is genuinely cold, she might do something about it. I guess a baby can’t really do something about it on their own and that is why they have us to gauge their warmth for them, and of course, we’re not going to let our babies freeze. Jeez.

    No one seems to bat an eye when kids are frolicking merrily in the icy ocean here in the winter.

    Seriously, I am surprised people are finding the time to say anything at all about how he is dressed.

    • I have seen our friends’ four-year-old happily whip off her jacket and run around on a cold, snowy day! And like you, I’m pretty sure that she would put it back on if she was cold.

      It will be nice when Oliver can communicate his needs in that way, but for now, I’m confident that feeling his neck or chest is a pretty good gauge of his body temperature.

  3. I like your style. I’ve personally always thought my friends OVERDRESS their kids – and I think kids – like adults – build resilience – and immunity! through exposure to different temperature extremes…however if/when I become a mum I hope i can be strong enough to tell people to “shove it” if they make comments on my baby-caring!!

    • Not that I’m judging anyone else (haha, the irony), but I agree that many kids seem to be overdressed, and that a little bit of benign neglect helps them to build resilience. For a healthy, robust baby, being a little bit cold for a short period of time is not going to be detrimental.

  4. Love your moxie! I have to tell you that you’re not alone in these kinds of comments/looks. I live in south Florida where our winter temps lend themselves more readily to shorts & flip-flops than coats and scarves. If I take my 6 month old daughter out without socks on her feet I get the same types of comments! I actually had an acquaintance look at my daughter and say “doesn’t your mommy know it’s winter?!” On a 75 degree day I think she’ll be just fine without socks… besides, they don’t stay on her feet for long before she kicks/pulls them off! 🙂

  5. Umm… don’t you live in Vancouver? Why would you ever have to use a snowsuit? 🙂 At least that is the perception from Nova Scotia. I can understand in much of the rest of the country, but not Vancouver!

    We use a snowsuit for our daughter when it’s colder, and also to prevent getting completely soaked when playing in wet conditions (we can just strip the snowsuit off when she gets inside, leaving her indoor clothes dry) – we get a lot of slushy snow and/or freezing rain which can make a person cold very fast. But she happily takes layers off and puts them on again when she wants – she has learned the “toddler flip” for jackets and likes being in control of her own temperature. (Along with everything else that she can manage to exert control over!)

    • Yes, I live in Vancouver, and as a former Ontarian I agree completely that snowsuits are largely unnecessary in this climate! Except for trips up the mountains (for snowshoeing, hiking, etc. in the winter). We will, however, be buying Oliver a one-piece unlined rain suit once he’s mobile. 🙂

      It will be nice when Oliver can express/control his preferences in that regard.

  6. As a mom of Twins, I found it rather easy to just leave my girls in their “sleepers” – you know, those fuzzy one piece outfits, that are cozy and comfy. Well, I had many a comments about my girls, “still in their jammys”…My response, “yes they are!” Leaving it open ended as in, “you have anything else to add, go right ahead” Just ignore the pointed looks and comments, no one on earth will know your child better than you do.

    • I like that strategy. Maybe when people ask if Oliver is cold, I will just respond with, “Possibly.” 🙂

      I think you were smart to leave your girls in sleepers! The first time I tried to wrestle pants onto a four week old, I regretted how much “real” clothing we had bought for Oliver, and wished we’d stuck to sleepers and one-piece outfits.

  7. I used to get all heated up and argue my case when someone criticises my decisions, but now I just say ‘Thank you” or something similar and move one. It’s always going to happen and it’s not worth worrying about too much.

    Your post brought back memories. My parents are from Bulgaria and apparently it is customary there fro babies to wear socks even on a hot day. So when we first took our son there people would stop us at least 3-4 times a day to ask us where our socks were (it was summer and it was hot!). We even played a game trying see if we can have a whole day without anyone saying anything about socks and no, we couldn’t do it 🙂

  8. Pingback: Parenting Against the Grain: Finding Middle Ground | Mama PhD-in-Training·

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