The snowsuit is a test of parenthood

December 26, 1991|By Barbara Brotman | Barbara Brotman,Chicago Tribune AhB

Surely hell cannot be as bad as they say. After all, the infernal weather being what it is reputed to be, there is no need for snowsuits.

What fiendish mind, what sadistic sensibility, what vicious force could have unleashed the snowsuit on generations of innocent parents? For the snowsuit must surely be ranked with such examples of sartorial cruelty as the straitjacket, the hair shirt and foot bindings.

It is difficult to say whether the torture is worse for the parent who is applying the snowsuit or the toddler who is to be ensnared in it.

Consider the process:

1. Place snowsuit (A) on floor.

2. Place child (B) on back on top of snowsuit.

The agony starts here. Child (B) does not want to be placed on top of snowsuit (A), at least not if he is conscious.

He begins squirming and flailing. Small hands and feet whiz about faster than hummingbirds' wings, knocking the parent's glasses askew and leaving small contusions.

All this is accompanied by a keening wail normally associated with the accidental introduction of a diaper pin into soft tissue.

3. Insert child (B) into snowsuit (A) by placing child's arms (C) and (D) into snowsuit arms (E) and (F). This is accomplished by grabbing a flailing, slobber-coated hand and trying to shove it up the snowsuit arm and out through the cuff while the child yanks it in the opposite direction with the strength of a lowland gorilla.

4. Repeat with other three limbs.

Then push the child's feet into the boots, past voluminous amounts of padding.

By this time, both the parent and the child have worked up a good sweat, not to mention a good cry.

Also at this point, the child generally announces a need to answer the call of nature. Some parents like to keep lists of such occasions, to be presented to offspring when they reach maturity in explanation of why there will be no college money forthcoming.

Some particularly strong children are actually able to walk a few steps in their snowsuits, and start lumbering down the block, hands outstretched stiffly at their sides like small B-movie monsters.

Parents need not worry about them wandering too far. After several steps, they generally fall over into the snow and lie there, waving their arms helplessly until help arrives.

The good news for parents is that the snowsuit is a first-child phenomenon. The new parent usually adheres to the Revenge School of Child-Rearing: Your parents put you into a snowsuit and you hated it, so you put your child into a snowsuit and he hates it, and someday he will put his child into a snowsuit and he will hate it, and it is all very comforting.

By the second child, the thrill of vengeance has petered out and been replaced by a certain amount of exhaustion.

Does a child need to be warm and dry? On top and on bottom? Simultaneously?

I think not, and vote for heavy sweatpants.

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