How cold has it been this winter? It’s been so cold that my teenager wore a hat to school.
Here in Minnesota, in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, high school students choose their daily outfits very carefully. Many different factors can go into the decision-making process, but weather-appropriateness is not one of them.
For some reason, at my son’s high school, more than 90% of the students refuse to use their lockers. They insist on carrying all their books, supplies, and outerwear around with them from class to class. Parkas, boots, mittens, and snow pants just don’t figure into the fashion equation. (Maybe we should install space heaters in their backpacks and shoulder bags.)
Our educational system here in Minnesota (just like everywhere else) is becoming more and more cluttered with standards and assessments—for math, science, writing, and reading. I’m tempted to start a citizens’ revolt to also demand sartorial standards. (“The student will learn to observe the weather conditions, using electronic information or actual physical observations. The student will learn the properties of rain gear and cold weather gear. The student will choose the appropriate outerwear at least 70% of the time.”)
I guess I shouldn’t wait until the educational system does my parenting job for me. As a parent, I have to draw the line somewhere, even with teenagers. It’s my moral, legal, and paternal obligation.
So here are my tough rules:
• For cool weather, my son can’t wear shorts when it’s below freezing (that’s 32 degrees Fahrenheit). Sometime in late fall, he has to switch to long pants or jeans.
• For really cold weather, I insist on a hat when the wind-chill temperature drops into the frostbite zone—at -20 degrees or lower. At these temperatures, my childhood memories take over, and I can still hear my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Mathre, saying, “Wear your hat at recess. You lose 2/3 of your body heat through your head.”
• My rule for wet weather? Well, I gave up on that one. If they want to get soaked, suffer wet hair, and wear soggy clothes all day, then go right ahead.
According to the National Weather Service website, last week’s coldest reading was an air temperature is -27 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind chill temperature was -41 degrees. Scientific studies have shown that, in these conditions, exposed skin will begin to suffer frostbite in ten minutes. Just to put that amount of time in proper perspective—that’s about the time required to read seven status updates on Facebook, write four text messages, or listen to three songs on an mp3 player.
I would hope that frozen skin might be a disincentive for teenagers. More importantly, however, those bitterly cold temperatures aren’t too good for cell phones, iPods, and body piercings either.
Maybe if I make a YouTube video about frostbite, set it to some hip-hop music, and release it to the Internet, my teenager will finally get the message.