Category Archives: mittens

My dude

I have been commenting a bit less on blogs these days.  I am still reading, I promise, but y’all are writing an awful lot and if I commented on all those posts, well, I’d never see my kids.  And then what would I write about?


           Benjamin, as I have mentioned before, is strongly anti-mitten.  Mittens, in his opinion, are designed for the sole purpose of restricting his tactile involvement with the world.  He has, however, lately softened his approach, demonstrating a willingness to wear gloves, at least, on what I refer to as “Bronte Days” here in London.  (These are the days I picture meeting Heathcliff on the moors in winds so fierce they could shear your nipples right off.)

             He seems to have recognized that my efforts to encourage mitten-usage are maternal concern, not maniacal, controlling, and creative attempts at torturing him.  He does not always consent to wear the gloves, but he has become less offended by the mere suggestion.

            So it was that, one recent weekend afternoon, we went out for a walk and I tucked his gloves into my pocket.  Our “walks” lately do not get very far.  Zach is on his scooter, but he gets awfully frustrated, because Benjamin is moving on his own agenda.  Pushing the doll’s carriage.  We make quite a sight on the streets of Southwest London, where gender stereotypes for babies and toddlers are all the rage.  Ben is very tall for his age and all torso, built like a brick outhouse with limbs, and he is also the only eighteen-month-old boy in a two mile radius to be seen plodding down the road behind his baby.  If the doll slumps over, he stops, looks at me, and says “baby,” while attempting to straighten it up.  He refuses to proceed until his progeny is comfortable once again.  Sometimes, he ditches the stroller and carries the doll instead.  He’s a new-age kind of parent, and he has taken a page from William and Martha Sears.  He is all about baby-wearing.

            It surprises me how many smiles he gets, how many people actually comment on how cute it is.  This is a neighborhood where little girls wear dresses every single day in the summer and many days in the winter, even just to climb the monkey bars at the playground.  When Zach wanted pink shorts, it was very hard to find them, because the boys don’t wear pink and the girls don’t wear shorts.  Since ours is the house where once-upon-a-time Zachary breastfed his panda bear, a pink doll’s house rises up between the large bin of vehicles and the toy farm, and it is a toss-up whether the play kitchen or the train set is the favorite plaything, we often stand out in a society that embraces gender stereotypes so fully.  Yet, people love to see my little guy charging down the street, stopping now and then to kiss his baby doll.

            Zachary can only wait patiently though so much of this, and on the day in question, when Benjamin stopped two doors away from our house to pull out his baby and carry it the rest of the way, his older brother scooted on ahead and knocked for his father to let him in.  Ben, however, had more immediate concerns.  He held his baby.  He examined its little hands.  He looked up at me.

            “Baby,” he said.  “Cole.” 

            “The baby is cold?” I asked.

            “Baby… cole… mitten.”  He looked up, brown eyes wide and serious, as he gently fingered the bare doll hands.  “Baby… baby… cole… mitten… baby… cole.”

            “You want to put mittens on the baby?”

            Ben learned the word “no” long ago.  “Yes” is a different story.  Instead of saying it, his whole face acts it out, lighting up with a mischievous smile and enthusiastic head-nodding, often accompanied by a full-throttle laugh.  And so it was that, ten feet from our front door, we found ourselves pulling out the gloves I had brought along, just in case my baby needed them, and fitting them onto his baby’s little hands, instead.


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Zachary (3 years), as I have written elsewhere, likes accessories.  He likes clothes, he likes colors, he likes socks.  No, no, let me rephrase that: he raises sock-choosing and sock-wearing to an art form that rivals the work of Kandinsky.  We have, on occasion, struggled with outer-wear accessories, but now that I have purchased him mittens in “candyfloss pink” he gladly dons his mittens whenever the temperature dips below 73º.

            Benjamin (17 months), on the other hand, seems rather offended that we own several types of garments, the entire purpose of which is to cover his extremities.  Nothing gives him greater glee than removing his socks, for example.  Over the summer, I left him with his grandparents.  “Don’t put him down for a nap with his socks on,” I warned.

            My mother-in-law was perplexed.  “Why not?”

            “Because,” I explained, “he gets so excited about removing them that he forgets all about being tired.”

            Nowadays, in our cold and drafty house, we do need to put socks on at night, if only as a formality.  Last night, when J snuck in to check on the boys, Benjamin had again removed his socks.  “Did you put them back on him?” I asked.

            “Why bother?” he replied.

            “Oh, he’s asleep now.  They’ll stay on for the night.  It’s not so much that he minds socks as he likes taking them off.  It is the act of springing his toes from the joint that fills him with such pleasure.”  I went in and fished out the socks and a foot.  In his sleep, the child obligingly raised his foot and held it up until I had it covered.

            Unfortunately, Ben is less sanguine about mittens.  We have tried gloves, we have tried mitts, we have tried the green dinosaur mittens that he has seen his brother wearing and therefore consecrating as the height of coolness.  All to no avail.  Every time we cover up his hands, he wails piteously.  If he cannot and we will not remove them, the wail escalates to a tempestuous lament, tears streaming down his face, mouth wide open to reveal all seven of his teeth.  People stop and stare.

            We have cried “uncle.”  We let him go without.  Since we are having rather a cold snap here, this means that lately we are mostly staying within.  However, every now and then, we do like to see the light of day.  Benjamin is particularly forceful about his desire to hit the mean streets of Southwest London, loading his panda bear into the doll stroller, then banging it against the front door repeatedly while looking at me and saying “walk.” 

            He’s not having a whole lot of communication problems.

            So, I put on three coats, three hats (with some objection from one of the heads), three sets of shoes, and two pairs of mittens.  We waddle out the door.  Twenty seconds into the walk, Ben stops.  He looks at his hands.  He looks up at me.  He holds up his hands.

            “Cole,” he says in wonder.

            I offer to put on his mittens.  Emphatic head shaking, “no, no, no, no, no.”  We continue to walk.  Thirty seconds later, Ben stops.  He looks at his hands.  He looks up at me.  He holds up his hands.

            “Cole,” he says insistently.  I suggest mittens.  He tells me where I can shove my stinkin’ mittens.  We continue to walk.  Twelve seconds later, Ben stops.  He looks at his hands.  He looks up at me.  He holds up his hands.

            “Cole,” he says piteously.  Yes, sweetie.  That’s why the rest of us are wearing mittens.