Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cold Climate Moms

Day 1

Day 2

Can you guess what Day 3 will look like?

Moms in cold climates have a tough job. Don't get me wrong, being a mom anywhere is a difficult, all-emcompassing job, but Moms in cold climates face challenges that most warm-climate moms can't possibly imagine. Living in Canada, I get to be a warm-climate mom for 4 months of the year, during the other 8 months of the year I long for the days when the only additional worry I have is remembering sunscreen & hats. 

Challenge #1 - The +20. I call challenge #1 the "Plus Twenty". In June if it took you 15 minutes to get out the door, in October it takes you 35. Before you even leave the house you will spend +20 searching for socks, mittens & hats. You will do up jackets & snowpants and then you will take them back off just before you head out the door so someone can go pee. It doesn't matter how much experience as a cold climate (CC) mom you have, it doesn't matter how old your kids are, if you don't take +20 to get out the door, you are leaving something behind. In July if it took you 45 minutes to run to the store to grab milk and diapers, in November it will take you over an hour. Without even mentioning winter road conditions & parking lots that have suddenly become half the size you are suddenly +20 pushing a shopping cart across a snow-packed parking lot. Toddlers who slip & slide across the ice are being hauled under your arm as you single-handedly navigate your cart (which has been piled high with blankets, I swear there is a baby under there somewhere). And the minute you hit the heat that is bearing down on the front door, that sweet little toddler has stripped off her hats & mittens. The problem with a +20 is that even though you have had them your whole life (even before having kids) if you accumulate too many, your day is ruined. Gone are the days when a +20 meant setting your alarm 20 minutes early so you could start your car & scrape the windows... here are the days when a +20 means reshoveling a walkway that the little ones built a snowman in the middle of... and that's just the beginning.

Challenge #2 - The Front Door Fight. They have begged you to go outside since they woke up to a fresh coat of snow. And yet the moment you utter the words "Put your foot in here..." as you motion towards the snowpants there will be a fight. "I'm itchy" and "These are too tight" are followed moans & groans "I'm too hot". And from what I can see it doesn't get better with age... I have considered stopping to ask the "To Cool for School" teen-ager why she is carrying her jacket when it's -15 degrees Celsius outside or where the boots that her mother bought her are. 

 Challenge #3 - Winter puts the X in exercise. There are only so many days I can spend at indoor playground, no matter how much my kids love it. I think my personal maximum is 2 days a week. Expensive snacks, screaming kids & the fact that you aren't getting anything else done other than updating your facebook status makes the indoor play centre a last resort. I try not to even mention it until January & only on days -15 degrees or colder. The super mom I was in the spring, the one whose children got at least 2 hours of exercise each day has gone into hibernation. Don't wake her, she'll be grumpy. There's  the guilt of knowing that your kids have been cooped up inside all day, but even worse, there's the insanity. And after 30 minutes of screaming kids running laps around the kitchen island, I am on my last nerve. Some urban hipster mummas might be able to convince their kids to take up yoga or tai-chi but for those of us who rely on kids who play outdoors (you know, the old fashioned way) a cold spell can be excruciating. I am starting to understand how CC moms can get caught up overwhelming their kids with activities & full schedules. Would it be better to go insane driving the mom taxi to ballet, hockey, gymnastics and swimming or to go insane from the chaos of pent up energy in your little ones accompanied by a big slice of guilt?

Challenge #4 - Let me Entertain You. I'm a crafty mom. And I like to bake with my kids. But even with a full Pinterest board I struggle to keep my kids entertained during a cold-spell. For starters, I don't believe it's my job. When I was a kid, if I complained I was bored I was told "That's not my problem" or "I have plenty of things you can do" (and most of them were chores, and none of them were things I wanted to do). But in a world where kids are entertained 24/7, they've become complacent. In having everything, they have stopped using their imaginations to create the things they don't have. I don't want to spend my winters (or money) stocking up on new toys, they have enough. And I can't (although sometimes I would like to) spend every day playing Barbies or Dinosaurs with them. And I refuse to allow the TV to be playing in the background all day long, just to fill the void. So what then? What happens when I mutter "Go outside and play" only to discover that it's 30 below out there? CC Moms, if they are doing it right, will have to work harder to encourage and allow the development of creative imagination because 1/2 of the healthy options a warm-climate mom has aren't available to us. I said healthy. And everything is healthy in moderation, but let me tell you warm climate moms, that by December 15th most of us CC Moms have used up a moderate amount of Televisions and video games. And there's still 5 more months of winter ahead...

There they are. The four biggest challenges that I face as a CC Mom. Each day I will face at least 2, if not all four of these challenges. And because of that, it has made finding solutions worthwhile. Here's what I have come up with so far (of course I'd love to hear any suggestions you have)

#1. I'm looking to the past for inspiration. It shocks me that homes are now built in Canada without boot rooms. If you don't even know what that is, ask your Grandma. But if you live without a space (like I do) at your backdoor for boots, coats & mittens and a bench to aide in the process, then you need to make one. And that is what I am working on this winter. Another thing that can't hurt? Mittens on strings. Those moms (with their boot rooms) in the 1950's & 60's were onto something... so I'm going to take the next week and sew all of the kids mittens onto strings.
There are a lot of +20's that you can't do anything about. They are just part of being a CC Mom and living in (an awesome place like) Canada. 

#2. I'm not sure there is much you can do to get a child to love snowpants. Once they are in them, they seem to forget that they are wearing them... it's just the +20 of getting them out the door that is painful. My only tip: Open the door. And while I might freeze my butt off, my kids are much happier if they aren't sweating inside their suits.

#3. I have a rule. And I stick to it. If it's warmer than -15 degrees out there, it's warm enough to play. I didn't invest all that money in winter wear so we could have it hanging in the closet or pull it out during a chinook. The past two days, like every day before, I have kicked the kids out. And when they knock at the door, asking to come inside, I feel their cheeks, change their mittens and send them packing.

#4. I'm working hard at this one because I don't think it happens over night: I am raising kids who can entertain themselves and each other. I have taken time out to 'set up a store' or 'restaurant' in their bedroom. I show them how to role play & use their imagination so that they can continue to do it when I'm not there. As kids, we weren't 'shown' how to use our imaginations, it just happened. But a lot of my kids friends (I'm not blaming any parents here) don't play this way and I noticed that early on. If teh older kids weren't going to teach Miles how to 'pretend' then I would have to. 
But using their imagination isn't enough. There are two more (and probably even more that I dont know about) thing that I think help. 1. I put things at their level. My kids can get crayons, playdoh and lego out themselves. They don't have to ask. 2. I let them make a mess. And sometimes, I even let them move onto the next mess before making them clean up the current on. My kids clean up after themselves, but not while they are playing. That's ridiculous. Yet I see moms doing it all the time. Cleaning-as-you-go is an adult concept, and it limits the creativity that can arise from moving onto a new toy or area. When we were little we would turn the entire basement (even the stairs!) into a Barbie doll village. That was when the best playing got done. If I limit Molly to playing only within her house & only with the toys that are used specifically for Barbies then I limit her ability to play. It's harder than it seems. When I see her pressing play-doh into the Barbie pots & pans. But it's worth it (and yes, I do make her clean it up later) because those playdoh pancakes that my Barbies has for breakfast made the game so much more fun.

1 comment:

kaly said...

Love. It.
Totally true about the kids playing by themselves. And true too, that we have to get down to their level to help them get started sometimes, but then they take it and run with it. I get such a warm feeling when I hear Otto doing great imaginative play. I hear a lot of "oh, thank you!"'s and "here you go"'s. And some of his scenarios are so super sweet, it's silly!

I hate the cold weather, but if we have to do it, we might as well do it well.