Column: Winter coats? What for?

Published Feb 16, 2013 at 04:00AM

You can't fool Mother Nature, they say.

But Mother Nature can fool you, or maybe just make a fool of you.

Also, Mother Nature can make moot your well-laid plans to have your children learn from the natural consequences of their own choices.

I'm a big believer in natural consequences.

Forget your homework? Then you'll get a failing grade on it, because I won't go back home to pick it up and bring it to school. Forget to feed the dog? You'll get no dinner, either, until all the pets are fed, watered and otherwise taken care of.

This time of year, I depend on the weather to reinforce the natural consequences of my children's forgetfulness (or stubbornness, depending on how you look at it). I can remind them a dozen times before we leave the house to grab their coats, but inevitably at least one will forget. We'll be halfway to the grocery store before I notice that despite my cajoling, my 10-year-old is wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, no coat in sight.

While I wouldn't let them go outside in sandals if there were 2 feet of snow on the ground, a missing coat can be a good reminder of why occasionally, it's important to listen to Mom; if a kid shivers in the cold for a few minutes while walking from the car to the store, that's the natural consequence of forgetting the coat.

But what good is it to depend on the weather to reinforce the consequences of forgetting winter wear when the weather is downright balmy?

“I don't need a coat!” my 10-year-old insists. “It's warm out!”

And it is warm out. February is still the middle of winter, but the past few weeks have been sunny, warm and, well, delightful. I've even left my own coat behind on a few of the more glorious days in the past few weeks.

But today's weather (or even this morning's) could be misleading; a cold snap could be a matter of hours away. And it's certain to get cold again when the sun sets, right? This is what I tell my kids every day as I harass them about their coats, even as they stubbornly continue to forget them.

And the days have stayed just as stubbornly warm.

It's a typical weather trend this time of year. From a Bulletin article a few years ago:

“It's a phenomenon sometimes called 'false spring,' when the days get longer, the sun climbs higher in the sky and the mercury rises into the 40s, 50s or even higher. And according to experts, it's not just a blip on the radar screen.

“In the last eight decades, data from the National Weather Service show that local temperatures have topped 50 degrees for an average of five days each year during the period from Feb. 15 to Feb. 28.

“ 'It's something that seems to happen every year around the second week of February,' said Oregon State Climatologist George Taylor.

“... Taylor said the timeline for the switch from winter to spring varies from year to year but usually becomes visible in February. ... But because it's still technically winter, more snow and cold temperatures are almost guaranteed to be in the forecast.”

AHA! Did you read that last part? Cold temperatures are ALMOST GUARANTEED to be in the forecast. Which means my kids should definitely listen to me and wear their coats — freezing temps, blizzards, etc., could be just around the corner. We could be on the verge of an ice age AT ANY MOMENT.

But they don't listen to me, not when the sky is this clear and blue and there are no clouds on the horizon and it's grossly inconvenient to carry an unworn coat around the school playground.

So thanks a lot, Mother Nature. Thanks for nothing. I thought you had my back, but now I'm just the crazy mom yelling about coats in the warm, clear-sky sunshine.