Here in the midwest the winter temps average around the teens in January and with the wind chill it begins to actually dip into the single digits. My first year here I was walking to class and I saw a female jogger who was wrapped head to toe, she even had her face covered with a scarf. After she passed I had a strange and sick feeling because of how she looked and it took me a few seconds to connect the dots. “What was weird about that woman and how she looked? Why do I want to weep right now after looking at her?” Then it hit me! “EWWWW…. Her eyelashes were frozen!!!” I had never seen anything like that except for maybe a photo spread in National Geographic showing pictures of the Arctic Circle. Good times!
Before having children I would actually go out and jog during the winter; even by the lake where the wind picks up and gives you an updraft like you wouldn’t believe. It really made the winters more bearable. If you can sweat in this weather you have overcome a fierce monster indeed. After having children the challenge of getting out in the winter has been very daunting. The snow and ice cover all of the equipment at a park and there really isn’t anything to do outside. It’s just too cold. The midwest carries it’s own culture and I’ve found that most people hibernate like bears in the winter. They come out again in the spring ready to go. I just can’t do this though!
We go out, even in the teens. Not for long, but we go out. I’ve been outside only to watch my son get the beginnings of red-chap (beginning of minor frost bite) on his cheeks because he was playing too hard. For this I put olive oil on the skin before we head out. I walk as much as I can with the kids. We get bundled up and head out. We walk to the library, I tell them we’re going to the store for toothpaste or we go into a small wooded area that I’ve labeled ‘the forest’ so they can trek around. Kids need fresh air and movement and they aren’t usually as fussed about the cold as we big people are. I have a lot of Scandinavian friends who actually leave the babies outside in a pram for a nap in the winter months to get fresh air. You must admit those Nordic types have great health. It could also be the dried fish. I have another friend who lives in Costa Rica (I know) and home schools her kids, often outside on a blanket. Indoors are overrated!
I’ve wanted my kids to love being outside even if it feels like we live in the tundra and I want them to look forward to air, sun, wind and snow. We read and do indoor things most of the day but for their brains and growing bodies we get outdoors. Too many kids are being diagnosed with asthma (a condition that comes even if you don’t keep your kids indoors all the time, let me be clear) and ‘Nintendo hand’ (not a real condition, similar to Blackberry hand) but there are ways to get them out. I’ve even made a map for them to follow on our walks or a ‘see what you can find from our list’ game so they aren’t bored with the same walk to the library. Give them sticks or tell them to find leaves (if they can under all that snow!). Take loooong walks and keep moving. They can do it!
Spring will be here in, um, like three months still and we’ll get out for hours of the day. In the meantime, if you live where it’s cold and feel oppressed by the weather, conquer the beast of the freezing cold and get out with your kids. They will love it. Just wear lots of layers and find your happy place!