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The Case of the Missing Jacket

I think 6-year-old may have set a new household record for lost clothing. Like most, we've had the occasional winter hat walk off somewhere at school. And we've got our fair share of one glove in search for a partner. When socks get a hole, we save the good one to match up with the inevitable missing sock that comes out of the dryer.

But the new jacket has me confounded. That bright red Champion fleece has been in our hands for about a week. And now, it's gone, vanished into either thin air or the school wing with box after box after box of lost and found. Sure, it might be hiding in the house, but I've checked all the closets, the laundry, the backpack and under the beds.

It's amazing how many kids you can clothe with the contents of lost and found. Last year, I dug through hundreds of coats, hats, gloves, scarves and jackets in search of a favorite hat or a lost glove. And never -- not once -- did I find what my kid lost. And if a lunchbox forgot to walk home on its own, those are there, too, along with the occasional lost toy, backpacks and water bottles.

I guess it could be worse. He hasn't made it to the high school stage yet when he might just forget where he put his musical instrument. He hasn't locked the car only to find his keys on the inside.

Sure, I try to label clothing -- which brings up a whole different point. Do you write with permanent marker on the cloth or label? Or do you buy stick-on labels or iron-on labels? Do you write first name and not last or last and not first or both?

What kinds of things do your kids regularly lose, and do they sometimes amaze you with how fast their things manage to vanish? Does anyone have preventive measures that seem to curb the loss -- like, say, making them pay for replacements?

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By Stacey Garfinkle |  October 15, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Teens , Tweens
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As a teacher, please, please, please do not send in the super expensive coats/hats/gloves. and if you do, make sure you write your child's name on the label.

my school is a uniform school and parents come in asking if i have seen their child's navy blue sweater. unfortunately, every child has a navy blue sweater! so far, this year, about 4 of my students have put their sweaters into the wrong bag! luckily, most of the sweaters have names on them, so, parents send them back in the next morning.

Posted by: cookie75 | October 15, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Other than her virginity, not much.

Posted by: anonthistime | October 15, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

We don't buy expensive clothing for our kid (except for shoes). No one in our rather large extended family buys expensive clothing for their children either. If you buy that red jacket at the church consignment sale for $5, you'll be much less upset when it disappears.

However, having said that, we have a large foam rubber ABC puzzle mat and somehow my son has lost the W - it's about 10" by 10" and bright blue and we can't find that sucker anywhere.

Posted by: VaLGaL | October 15, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

We have very few items of clothing that aren't hand-me-downs. Their ski jackets and pants were probably the biggest expenditure, and they are labeled in several places. I'm with Valgal, if you don't buy the expensive stuff, you don't get so upset when they go missing. It's just one reason why I buy cheap sunglasses.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 15, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

The stick-on labels are awesome. We use the same label on clothing, shoes, school supplies, snack box and all kids of things that go out the door in the morning. Haven't lost a thing so far this year.

Posted by: Momto31 | October 15, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

It's not just school. We have a huge lost & found collection at the baseball/softball fields. At the end of the Spring season there were (we had to inventory the stuff): 78 unclaimed baseball/softball gloves; 14 bats; 142 sweatshirts; 37 jackets; 26 pairs of sweatpants; 84 t-shirts; 3 bat bags full of gear (YOU DIDN'T PUT YOUR NAME ON A BAT BAG FULL OR GEAR OR EVEN REALIZE IT WAS MISSING??!!!) And that doesn't count the "valuables" (cell phones, blackberries, watches, rings & other jewelry, etc.) that wasn't claimed. (Between baseball and softball there are just about 2,000 kids in our program, so these numbers aren't THAT outrageous, but some of them are still pretty stunning, to me at least.)

People, please: first realize that something's missing, then go figure out where you or your kid had it. Look someplace unexpected, too.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 15, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Preschool and day care are very good at trying to send the child with the right clothing. A few times my daughter has come home with someone else's clothing or toy. I always wash and send it back the next day. I have found that some parents are not so considerate.

But my daughter does go to a preschool in a public elementary school. I am amazed at the large boxes of lost and found items that increase as the school year progresses. Beautiful expensive coats, shoes, shirts etc... I wonder why the school doesn't open the school doors for after hours to allow the parents to rummage through the boxes to retrieve the items. You can bet dollars to doughnuts the kids won't bother to look through them.

I plan on labeling expensive outer coats but I figure we will loose a few things.

We generally get high quality LLBean coats with our credit card reward points. Even though they are sort of free to us, I don't want to have to replace them.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 15, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

We lost my son's lunchbox and thermos somehow last year. I drive him to and from school so I cannot for the life of me figure out how we lost it, it bothers me to this day. It was a cool metal one with a skull on the side with a picture of me and him on the inside lid. HOW does that get lost. If anyone sees it around, let me know.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | October 15, 2008 8:59 AM | Report abuse

I am so happy for the stick-on clothing name labels. I sent my young son to camp and put his name tag on all his clothing including his socks. Not one piece of clothing went missing, not even a single sock. The stick-on labels work so well, as I don't have to sew or iron on, and they stick so well, one year later, they are still on his clothes. It's too bad though, coz he has grown out of most of them. But I know I can easily order more stick-on labels and get them delivered to my door. I think I will order some more for my friends! I am so happy I found these stick-on labels. I would personally recommend them rather than iron on and most definitely not the sew on, especially for non sewers like me! I am so lazy or perhaps --- just efficient!

Posted by: happy_mum | October 15, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Labeling is KEY - whether a lunchbox, coat, sports gear, etc. It's the only hope you have of getting your kids' stuff back, at any age.

A Sharpie is my best friend. My son goes to overnight camp, so most of his clothing is labeled anyway. It's not much of a stretch to label his outerwear too. The only downside to labeling is that when you give away or consign old clothes you have to remember to remove or cross out the name. (I use last name only, but our name is unusual.)

My daughter said that when she was in middle school, her friends always wondered why her name was on her shoes... but none of them go to camp! :)

Posted by: lorenw507 | October 15, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

"I always wash and send it back the next day. I have found that some parents are not so considerate."

I'm surprized by this comment. What is the lack of consideration-- that the returned item isn't clean? wasn't returned timely? both? Not everyone has daily access to a washer and dryer.

The few times I have ended up with another child's item, the parents seemed grateful that I had returned the item clean to them, even if there was some delay.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 15, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Our biggest recurring problem is the glasses. My daughter has had them for a few years for schoolwork, but she can see ok without them. Which means that they go to school, she takes them off to play outside, and then they never come home again. And they are EXPENSIVE -- we get one pair a year through insurance, but replacements are $300+ out of pocket. So my current plan is (1) find some sort of label I can affix somewhere to the glasses, (2) when she loses them anyway, take her prescription to Lenscrafters or someplace similar to see if I can get a cheaper replacement version, and (3) forewarn her that the replacement version will be the "cheap" frames, not the "cute" ones, to give her some sort of incentive to hang onto the first pair. Of course, now that her vision is getting worse and she needs to wear them more, the issue may resolve itself anyway.

Posted by: laura33 | October 15, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Sorry capitalhill, the items are not returned at all. I have even heard some of the parents claiming they just keep the stuff.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 15, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Sorry capitalhill, my point is they don't get returned at all. I have even heard parents admitting that they just keep the stuff. One parent actually bragged that they get a bunch of her kids school uniforms by keeping the mistaken clothing.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 15, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

The stick-on labels are awesome for helping to keep all of the kid's clothing and belongings organized. If things get lost at school we know we can always find them if they are labelled. They are very easy to use ...much better than iron-on or sew-on... and they last forever never coming off through all the washings. I highly recommend them.

Posted by: ruth1122 | October 15, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

i gotta go with the get them inexpensive or second hand clothing. put their name in it. search the lost & found. son is in 3rd grade this year. he has forgotten jackets & hats but we've been able to find them in the school lost & found.

Posted by: quark2 | October 15, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Like others, I tend to shop at the consignment shop or get hand-me-downs from older cousins for my kids' clothing, especially winter jackets.

laura33, our worst problem has been my daughter's glasses too! This is actually the first year that she has kept her glasses for more than 10 months. She does tend to lose them close to her yearly appointment date but I'd rather her not lose $$$ glasses at all.

Posted by: slackermom | October 15, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome, that is bizarre! That wasn't even an option in my scenario! And here I thought you upset because items weren't returned immediately the next day! Not returned at all! Blatently kept! Shameless. what are the children learning from that? Now I'm getting a clearer picture of why you are disappointed with the school. Guess we are VERY lucky with our neighborhood public school.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | October 15, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

It's been years since either kid lost clothing. This year younger son is in middle school. For the first time he's struggling with all the class transitions. Yesterday we found out he'd lost his second school book of the year. First, the World History textbook vanished, and he has to pay for the replacement. Now the Music book has disappeared. That one might turn up again - we hope! - since the teacher is out for a back injury and the classroom has been locked up and the kids can't get in.

(The substitutes have had them in a different room watching presidential debates - apparently in Oakland we can't afford substitute teachers who teach music classes.)

DH is going to look up the ass't principal with keys to that classroom after school today, and see if we can find that missing book there. Otherwise, younger son is going to be paying for another book.

At this rate it's going to be a *very* long time before he can buy himself any new video games. I hope he enjoys watching his older brother's choice of movie rentals, too.

Posted by: SueMc | October 15, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

For me the concept of substitutes that are competent and teach the subject matter is very foreign to me. For me they were always glorified babysitters. I'm not saying subs aren't competent and educated, just that they aren't really expected to teach and carry on lessons are they?

Posted by: EmeraldEAD | October 15, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Funny that Stacy posted this today. We had exactly the same scenario come up on Monday. Son went to school with brand new red fleece OshKosh jacket, and did not have it with him when he returned. Half way home, he told me that he forgot his jacket at school. So we turned around so that he could go back and look for it. Rummaged through the lost and found and had no luck. Looked in the hallway next to the gym, where he thought he put it down. Nothing. He was devastated. I figured it would turn up eventually (we have had pretty good luck with the lost and found in the past), but he was very upset. When we got home, he discovered that the jacket was in his backpack after all. So of course he was happy and relieved not to have lost it, and I think the incident will be a reminder to him to remember his jacket in the future.

It is only recently that he is beginning to care about his clothes a little. Must be growing up.

Posted by: emily8 | October 15, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Boy I thought I was cynical about our school system - since we're under state control - but I don't have such a low opinion of our substitute teachers. Most of them are working for a permanent teaching position (in some other district, unfortunately), or they're retired, and doing the substitute-thing to suppliment their income. Either way, they really try to teach!

That's why it was a surprise to find out the beginning strings class wasn't getting a music teacher for a substitute. Watching recordings of political debates is educational, I suppose, but it's not part of a musical education.

DH and I do a pretty good job in the political and current events realm at home, and I know younger son was bored out of his mind with seeing debates he's already "endured" with us.

Posted by: SueMc | October 15, 2008 6:44 PM | Report abuse

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