Natural consequences

AS I WAITED FOR MY GARAGE DOOR TO OPEN yesterday afternoon, I was met by Eli, who was fixing to leave on his bike with his basketball. He’s been enjoying that we live close to basketball courts, but it’s been too cold to play outside. He has discovered that sometimes, his school is open after hours and if one of the two gyms is not in use, he can shoot around inside.

The problem was, he was wearing crew socks and a pair of athletic slides. And a hoodie. And it was 20 degrees outside.

I tried to explain frostbite and hypothermia, but all he heard was BLAH BLAH COLD BLAH BLAH BLAH and off he went.

When he returned 15 minutes later, his feet were really cold. (No!) As he sat with them next to the fireplace, we had another discussion about how 20 degrees is a kind of cold one should not trifle with. This is the kind of cold that would freeze the canned sodas we used to leave on the shelf in our carport. It’s the kind of cold that helps you identify every broken seal on every window and door in your house. It’s the kind of cold that makes furnaces sputter and quit.

You would think the experience of self-inflicted cold feet would have left an impression. You would think he’d have been grateful that I dug out two winter coats so he could choose one to wear on his walk to school. You would think those things, but you are probably an adult with a fully-developed frontal lobe. The boy rolled his eyes and groaned when I insisted he wear a coat. Or, he groaned because it was the first day back after winter break. Probably some of both. Either way, he was running late this morning and asked me to drive him to school. (Only the second time this school year!)

He got into the car wearing just a hoodie. Coat’s in my backpack, he said in response to my side-eye. Do you have a hat? I asked. I have a hood. Gloves? One. But I have pockets.

At least he was wearing sneakers instead of slides.

WebMD illustrates natural consequences using the coat / cold example. They go on to say, “Learning through experiencing consequences is much more powerful than through a lecture or punishment. Using consequences for misbehavior is an effective teaching method for dealing with behavior problems in children and teens.”

Oh, WebMD! That’s precious! I thought it would be effective too, but I am a female adult. And I have learned from parenting two boys through their teen years that cause and effect is not the deterrent you’d expect it to be, at least when it comes to weather-appropriate dress. Eli’s brothers insisted upon leaving coats behind, lest they be forced to actually use their school lockers. And with Eli, I’ve had to establish a threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, below which he will only reluctantly wear long pants to school, much to the chagrin of school administrators.

Despite it all, I do tend to agree that a “natural consequences” approach to parenting is probably the best way in most cases. Within reasonable limits, of course. But I’ll be counting the days until he demonstrates that he can decide on his own, based on weather reports and experience, whether or not it’s a good day to wear a coat.

I take comfort in knowing that my kids’ behavior places them in the fat part of the bell curve. A quick Google search of “shorts in snow” yields many images of bare legs on a white background, including in this feature story from the Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) Press that articulates adults’ perennial concern for children’s cold legs.

I have found my people.

Area Boy wears summer attire in winter. School administrators remain exasperated.


When you cc the Mayor, you get a tracking number!

My carbon-copy to Mayor Fenty of my letter to the DC DMV has been logged, forwarded and assigned a tracking number.  I might have to take this number and go play the lottery:

IMGWhat’s even better is I now have a phone number to call in case things don’t get resolved! I’m setting a reminder for November 2 and plan on starting to make calls…

Getting closer…

Hitting the USPS today:

September 21, 2009
Ms. Lucinda M. Babers
Director, Department of Motor Vehicles
Government of the District of Columbia
PO Box 90120
Washington, DC 20090

 Re: Citation #543436103, 9/7/01

Dear Ms. Babers:

Thank you very much for your letter dated September 18, 2009. I know you’re very busy and I appreciate your responding directly to my September 12 letter addressed to the DC Treasurer.

In response to your kind invitation, I am enclosing a copy of check #580 dated October 22, 2001, in the amount of $45.00, cashed by the DC Treasurer on November 30, 2001.   My recollection is that we did not pay the citation immediately, but did remit promptly upon receiving the second notice plus the corresponding fine, which increased the total due to $45.00.

Your letter stated that the DMV processed a check in response to the above-mentioned citation for $15 from me on October 1, 2001, but based on my records, I’m not sure that either the amount or the date is accurate. I am convinced now more than ever that this multi-year misunderstanding is the result of a simple human error.

As I stated in my numerous previous attempts to correct this mistake, while we did not write the citation number on the check, we did enclose the remittance slip in the same envelope when we sent you the check. Because the DMV accepted this money and has been in possession of it for eight years, I trust that this letter will finally prove that we paid the citation in full at the time it was due.

Again, I am most appreciative of the time you took to respond to me, and I accept your gracious apology for the inconvenience this matter has caused me. I trust that you are sufficiently empowered to fix this situation immediately before it escalates any further.  I have taken the liberty of copying Mayor Fenty and Mr. Gandhi on this letter so that they may be kept abreast of this situation.
Enclosures:   Copy (front and back) of check #580 for $45.00, 10-22-2001
Copy of 9/18/09 letter from Ms. Babers

Cc:  Adrian Fenty, Mayor, District of Columbia
  Natwar M. Gandhi, Chief Financial Officer, District of Columbia