Aside from the obvious, there’s a major difference between summer and winter in my house.
Me: “Let’s go do something outside!”
Kids: “Let’s go do something outside!”
I am a Maine native and have lived here for the vast majority of my life, but I just cannot love winter. I try–I really, really do–but winter is dead last in any ranking I make of the seasons. Summer is first by far, spring and fall trade places as second and third depending on which one I’m in at the moment. But winter…well. If I could design my ideal winter I would spend it sitting directly next to the woodstove with endless piles of novels, knitting projects, movies, and cups of tea.
Unfortunately, as time went on I learned that such a lifestyle has a negative effect on both the fit of my pants and the seasonal affective disorder that nags at me each year. When my kids came along, it became even more clear that I couldn’t simply hibernate for three or four (or five) months. I would actually need to get outside because they needed to get outside. Luckily, paying attention to my kids also taught me a few things about tolerating winter or maybe even enjoying it. Just a little bit.
So what have I learned?
Dressing appropriately for the weather actually helps.
Obvious, yes, but it took me a while to fully get it. I would carefully bundle my kids up in warm underlayers, snowpants, negative-temperature-rated jackets and boots, waterproof mittens, and thick hats but throw whatever boots and jacket were handy over my regular clothes and complain about being cold. Once I finally took the time to outfit myself appropriately I discovered I could stay outside with them for more than 20 minutes, enjoy it, and still feel all my appendages at the end. I’m not very smart, but I can be taught. Eventually.
Getting outside will make you feel better.
If you dress for the weather (see above) there really are very few days when getting outside is truly uncomfortable or dangerous. Fresh air and sunshine wakes you up, burns off aimless energy, helps you sleep better at night, and fights off the winter blues. There were times in the past when–except for running from building to car, car to building–I would not be outside for weeks. That led to an unsettled, antsy feeling that I couldn’t shake and I see it in my kids during the very cold stretches. If you try to lock up kids for too long, they end up climbing the walls like sugared-up monkeys. Turns out what’s good for them is good for me. So we go outside.
Dignity is overrated.
No, you will not look like a sophisticated adult while splayed out in a snowtube and screaming your way down the local sledding hill. Ditto for thrashing your way across the skating pond while you relearn how to keep your feet under you. Building a snowman will probably leave you red-faced and with snow in your hair. But so what? That stuff is fun. The year I let my kids talk me into looking ridiculous with them is the year things got a lot more interesting. Spectators may look prettier, but they also look more boring.
The world looks different out there.
A walk through the woods in the winter is a whole new adventure. It’s easier to see the birds and other animals, tracking is a breeze, and the quiet is just phenomenal. The trees sparkle, the shadows are sharp, the ground crunches. Even our little back woods gets transformed by a snow into a Dr. Suess-worthy wonderland. Before I felt the need to keep my kids occupied, I never would have strapped snowshoes onto my feet just to wander around out back for 30 minutes. Look at what I would have missed.
Yes, thanks to my kids, winter and I called a truce. It still might not be my favorite time of year, but I will agree that it might be the most magical.