Winter Parenting

Edited to add: I wrote this a couple weeks ago when it was still frigidly cold out but then we started seeing some warmer temperatures with some snow melt! Spring is on the horizon! But the wind has felt pretty wintery the last couple days and today the roads were kinda crappy and it was snowing, so here we are.

It’s no secret that this has felt like the longest winter we’ve ever had in Saskatchewan. Everyone I talk to is feeling it. I think the combination of the cold, the constantly changing up and down temperatures, snow, bad roads, to the never-ending pandemic, to the heaviness of the uncertainty of the state of the world has everyone down and ready for the change in seasons.

We can’t help but count our blessings when we consider what the countries of Russia and Ukraine are going through. It feels wrong to complain about petty things like cold temperatures when we have a warm house, vehicles, and the means to dress for the weather, but I haven’t written for a long time and maybe a little humour and stories we can all relate to will bring a little light in the darkness of the world right now. It doesn’t hurt to try.

Every time I have taken my kids outside this winter, I take a picture of them because it feels like such a monumental task getting us all outside. It starts by making sure everyone is fed and watered and of course we attempt some bathroom breaks, but we apparently need to be approximately 80% fully dressed in the snow gear before anyone will actually go pee. More on this later.

To set the stage, we decide we’re going to go outside and get all the extra clothes on at the time when everyone is already feeling a little stir crazy from being in the house too long. Going outside is one of those last ditch efforts to reset the day and improve everyone’s mood. I would love to just stay in the house all day in the winter, but I’m told that getting outside and getting fresh air is great for kids’ development and happiness, yada yada. I can’t argue with the fact that some fresh air does seem to help my own sanity as much as I try to resist it when the Saskatchewan air is so cold, it hurts your face.

First, we have to find the kids’ socks and force them on because my kids hate wearing socks and I don’t even put them on unless we’re going out. They’re off within minutes anyways. Em always tries to negotiate wearing her boots without socks but until the weather is at least 20 degrees warmer, it’s not happening. 

Then it’s time for the ski pants. Em loves to help put mine on, no matter how loud Deacon is screaming, so it feels like it takes infinitely long for her to do. At this point, no matter what order we do things, Deacon is always crying. I think he hates having his snowsuit on, he probably hates going outside because he can’t really do much out there (who can in an outfit where you can hardly move your arms and legs, can hardly walk in the weird bulky boots, and can’t hold anything with the mitts). Anyways, Em likes to take her sweet time helping me get dressed. She wants to dress herself too, but not actually. She will think of any excuse she could possibly do besides get her own ski pants on. When I try to help her, there’s some hand swatting and tears (remember we’re already grouchy at this point). Finally, she’ll realize that everyone else has their winter clothes on and we’re all waiting on her, so she’ll start putting on her ski pants and if it’s a good day, I might be able to help with the zipper. Finally the moment comes where everyone has all the toques, scarves, coats on; we’ve found all the f***ing mittens, we’re all sweating and hot from the production and Em will announce she has to go pee. I will internally release a plethora of terrible words that I try to keep inside my brain, curse myself for potty training her, and the occasional “are you kidding me” will slip out under my breath. We have learned a few tricks to keep most of the stuff on while peeing (a smart mother must’ve invented the velcro straps on ski pants) so we’ve become more efficient at getting the bathroom break done and getting out the door. 

I breathe a huge sigh of pride and accomplishment as we hit that fresh air. We’ve made it outside and I feel like I’ve made a big achievement today. I’m sure my kids will thank me someday for this sweet relief from the house even if it was painful leading up to it. Soak in that fresh air and all the outdoor benefits, kids.

What follows is very unpredictable. Sometimes I pull the kids on the sled and have a peaceful, glorious walk until the sled tips over and everyone gets snow face washes. Sometimes the crying from inside the house continues to the outside and there’s no recovery. We’re back inside within minutes. Sometimes we find a sledding hill, Em finds her courage to walk in the “deep” snow and we last even more time than it took for us to get ready. Sometimes the bathroom fairies betray us and we have to rush inside, sometimes making it, sometimes not. 

Regardless of the end result, I feel like Mother of the Year for getting my kids outside with enough warm clothes (usually) that they shouldn’t get frostbite. The benefits they will get from the minutes in that frigid air, I’m sure are endless. Right?!

*Special shoutout to the daycare providers that have to get 8 kids dressed up to go outside everyday. I truly don’t know how you do it. You’re the real MVP’s.

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