The back of a person in a black, down coat with the title Coats: an allegory for parents
Coats: an allegory for parents

This is for all of you parents whose children have made some rough choices in life. Many of you have recently cried out to me the heartfelt lamentation: “What did I do wrong? How did I fail them?” (You know who you are.)


Coats. Parents teach their children at an early age about wearing them. You teach your child that we wear coats when it is cold outside because they keep us warm and comfortable. They protect us from hypothermia and frostbite. You provide coats for your children and you teach them how to put them on themselves, how to fasten them up by zipping or buttoning them. You show them how to care for their coat by hanging it up and washing it periodically. You even try to instill in them the need to keep track of their coats—not leave them on the bus, or at school, or church—so that they will be available to wear when needed.

All these things you teach them. But do they always choose to wear their coats?


Even if you followed them around, coat at the ready, would they always choose to put it on when needed?


Some children may feel that wearing a coat isn’t worth the hassle. Some may believe that the cold cannot touch them, that only the weak feel the cold. Others may see that their friends don’t wear coats, so why should they? Whatever the reason, there are some children that would rather turn blue and walk around with their teeth chattering than wear a coat.

Ice crystals on barbed wire.

Success as a parent can not be measured by the choices children make from day to day. It is proven by the moments when those children, inevitably touched by the bitter sting of the cold, remember what they were taught when they were small. In that moment, they will seek out a coat, and as they pull it on and fasten it up, feeling the security of its warmth, they will bless you for teaching them how to be warm and safe. Everyone eventually feels the cold. It’s true that some may never choose to be warm, but most will. A parent’s success is in giving their children the knowledge and tools to be warm again. If you have done your best to teach them; you have not failed.

1 thought on “Coats: an allegory for parents”

  1. Mary Ellen Voorhees

    I never thought about life choices that way. I like how you make me see things from an angle I haven’t thought of before. You leave me feeling better.

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