The Coat, Continued.

My weariness about the winter jacket is based on past experience; my children are not gentle or kind to their clothing. I’m not talking about the usual wear-and-tear – this isn’t about the frayed knee of a pair of jeans or the toe that pokes out the end of a pair of socks. I’ve been known to get a little twitchy about the 800th missing mitten, like anyone else, but I accept that kids aren’t always totally responsible.

This is more than that.

One of my kids woke up one day and cut the sleeves off of several of his shirts. Shirts that he ostensibly liked – he wore them often. Once he cut the arms off, however, he didn’t wear them anymore and he hid them in the drawer of his bedroom until we discovered them and asked him WTF happened. He shrugged and said, “I cut off the sleeves..” and had no further explanation.

One of my kids destroyed so many pairs of shoes – intentionally cutting at parts or ripping things or pulling off the sole – that we now refuse to buy any shoes that aren’t from Zellers. If he wants something fancier than the most basic, he has to use his allowance.

I spent a good chunk of time sewing pyjama pants for the kids, at their request, only to have one tear his apart and another insist on a waistband so short that he couldn’t even wear the stupid things (and I repeatedly told him that he wouldn’t want the waist that low and he kept insisting on it and I kept insisting otherwise and.. well, I was right but it didn’t make me feel better in the end to ‘win’ that one.) I also sewed them pillows with funky fabric that they destroyed in short order.

One of the kids has lost all of his clothes to parental control because of the sheer number of items he’s messed up by refusing to hang up or put them away, storing food in the pockets, and having plastic wrappers (with food residue on them) go through the dryer. Or for not changing his clothing – but pretending he has – so we’ve been left to ‘police’ it by knowing firsthand if he changed his underpants, or not.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been so grateful for the friends who have given us hand-me-downs (and, in some cases, brand new clothing) for the boys – so you might think I’d be more relaxed about this. After all, I didn’t have to pay for a lot of things. But, it doesn’t make it any easier to see things get wrecked the first time they’re worn or by small hands with scissors.

Nothing I say has any impact on this; I talk about how long clothes can last if they’re treated well. I talk about how, if something starts to rip, I can fix it (if I’m told it’s starting to rip). I talk about how, if we don’t have to buy the same item over and over again, we can afford to buy other things. I point out how much they love that shirt and I talk about how I have pairs of shoes that are older than my youngest kid (and probably my middle one, too).

Gifts, not just clothing, that they ask for are dismantled in short order – a day, maybe a week, after they’re purchased. Anything they can smash up will be smashed. We warn them not to touch the fragile thing and.. blammo! broken! We tell them not to leave the electronic thing on the floor and.. blammo! stepped on and broken!

Some day, when I can face it, I’ll document the insane damage done to this house – not by accident, but intentionally. Not even out of anger – ‘just because’.

They’re like the perfect little Zen Monks – material things have absolutely no value to them. It is maddening, though, for me.

And so I look at that winter coat and I think, eh.


  1. Michelle Parker says:

    I find that material things have no value, EXCEPT, if someone else destroys it/throws it away. Then all hell breaks loose.

    I also find that material things are really, really, really important. Until I buy and give them to them.

  2. Sylvain says:

    I have no ability to understand this at all. The kid who used to live across the street would do this. I would watch him destroy almost everything he laid his hands on. He once got a new remote control truck. He played with it for a about half an hour before I watched him start throwing it against the pavement, presumably to see how many pieces it would break into.
    I have always been very careful with all my possessions, and to this day it upsets me when something gets damaged or broken. As I type this, I’m wondering if maybe your boys might be better off than me later in life, by not having this unhealthy attachment.

  3. violet says:

    I’m the same as you, Sylvain. I have toys from my childhood, still, in good condition. I think that’s part of why it makes me insane to watch them trash shit.

    It gets harder and harder to buy them gifts for that very reason – you KNOW that it’ll be destroyed. So what’s the point? It’s not even like they’re taking it apart for a purpose – like, they’re not cannibalizing stuff to build something else. They’re literally just wrecking it for the sake of wrecking it.

    It takes the joy out buying them anything. Clothes, toys, whatever. There’ve been times when we’ve sort of rearranged our budget to buy something one of them said they REALLY wanted – we don’t do that anymore. Gift-giving occasions (birthdays or solstice) are hard.

    We thought they might value it more if they had their own money to spend – so we stopped buying as much FOR them and let them earn money via allowances to buy stuff themselves. Didn’t work.

    • Michelle Parker says:

      We buy very little “stuff”. Have switched to buying experiences. Tickets to sports events, theatre, zoo, science centre, etc.

      • violet says:

        Experiences as a family have been problematic for reasons I won’t explain in an un-locked post. We have been adding more individual experiences, however, where a kid gets to go to a dance or snowboarding or whatever. We’re starting sports in the spring, again, and have started looking into summer camps..

        • Michelle Parker says:

          We do a mix of family and individual stuff. But we almost always have one of us with them. That’s part of the “gift” and we get to work on bonding.

  4. Kelly M says:

    Is this a boy thing? I can’t even imagine it. That would drive me over the edge.

    • coffee says:

      It’s not a boy thing ; as Violet mentions immediately below you, there were a number of toys that my sister at one point rescued from my parents home and dropped off when she came for our wedding. I, and all of my friends from what I saw, took either good, or reasonable care of our stuff. If we took something apart, it was for the purpose of reclaiming parts to use for something else, and quite rare.

      Our most “destructiveness” was in raw materials. I remember once when I was young using up a ball of yarn (which had been from the same dye lot as the yarn used for my baby blanket (not that I knew that then)), cutting it up to tie around my he-man figures so they could “jump” down the laundry shoot and I could pull them up. I don’t remember why I needed the entire ball of yarn so they could all go down at the same time, but my mom was quite irate as she educated me about dye lots, and now some final project that she had planned, but hadn’t done for the last 5 years, couldn’t be done.

      On the plus side of that destructiveness, my friends’ parents quickly realized, that they could sacrifice a 200 ft loop of rope, and we’d spend the entire day in the (unfinished) basement making “spider webs.”

    • R. says:

      Nope. This kind of intentional wanton destruction isn’t typical.

  5. violet says:

    They’ve destroyed every flashlight we’ve ever given them, every bed lamp (from melting stuff onto the bulb to just smashing the whole thing), shredded some of my childhood books (after writing in it, then tearing out the pages, then destroying the cover), taken apart trophies they’ve won, disassembled the various pieces of keychains, pulled parts off of lanyards for no reason, cut holes in bedsheets, detached the various parts of a bed frame (now sleeping on a mattress on the floor), broken two dressers, taken apart a flying helicopter and a neat little bug, broke all of the Transformers left from Coffee’s childhood.. and that’s not including the damage to our house. Or about 900 other things they’ve wrecked, disassembled or destroyed.

    And they don’t care. And there doesn’t appear to be any way to convince them to care – about their stuff, my stuff, the family’s stuff.

  6. Katherine says:

    If they break it, it can’t be taken away from them or given to someone else.

    It might sound weird, but this sounds like what’s going on. Especially with the gifts.

    • coffee says:

      It doesn’t really sound weird given their histories. Entirely a “control” thing.

      And even if it’s not so much for the control, and getting to choose the moment when an object is no longer useful, it could be more of a “nothing lasts/is kept” so use it for anything while one can. Trading a DS for 5 books totally makes sense if one doesn’t think about 5 minutes from now, much less tomorrow.

      The one ray of hope is that so far YO and MO haven’t destroyed / dismantled their laptops. However part of that might be extremely big warnings about that the laptops aren’t actually theirs, but we’re letting them use them and have dedicated them to their use. No trading away, no giving, no “fixing”, no “decorating” etc. Of course, with that said, this weekend might be a good time to reiterate re: ownership and treatment of the laptops.

  7. Lena says:

    Teach them how to use a needle and thread.

    • violet says:

      The middle kid knows how – and, of great amusement, tried to get out of sewing something recently by saying, “I’m not very GOOD at sewing.”

      I got to use one of my mom’s lines – “You’ll never GET better at sewing if you don’t DO any sewing – – let me know if you want a needle and thread..”

  8. Kelly M says:

    Ah, control + lack of ability to project into the future. It’s starting to make sense to me now. I’m thinking back to that warehouse you wanted to move into. Might have been the more kid-proof option. Ha! Also what Katherine said would explain the similar behaviour of the child who used to live across the street from Sylvain, given what we know about his home life.

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