I was born in Florida. I’ve lived in sunny SoCal. I remember living in North Carolina and school being delayed over 2 hours because of a centimetre of snow. I am pretty sure I was permanently cold for a good 5 years when my family moved to Canada. So I get it when people are hesitant about kids being outside when the weather drops below zero. Especially because, truth be told, I hate being cold.
But this comes at a head with my personal requirement that I take my kid outside every day. I am the type of person who opens the windows for a few minutes everyday just to let the fresh air in. I need to be surrounded by trees. I blame our walks on the dog needing them, but truthfully, I need them just as much as he does.
I owe my love of the outdoors that persists even in the cold to our time spent living in the mountains. We lived in the most amazing town where everyone was outdoorsy and fit and just this side of hippy. When we first moved there I was a little hesitant, telling my husband to never let me become a granola mom, but surprise! I make my own granola now and it’s delicious.
So when we were visiting Disney World last month on what I’m pretty sure was the coldest day in Florida history (or at least my coldest day in Florida in history), my sister and I were laughing at the conversations we were overhearing. She heard a kid whining about the cold and the mom snapping in turn, “You’re from Michigan!” Everyone had smiles plastered on their faces like “I paid so much money I am not letting the cold get to me damnit!” And you know what, we all lived and have a funny Disney story to tell now. We made the best of it. Now imagine me standing in line at the airport Starbucks and overhearing a conversation about how selfish parents were for bringing their kids to Disney on such a cold day. THIS IS WHY PARENTING SUCKS. Take your kid to Disney and you are still going to get judged.
Never mind the money spent getting to Florida or that it is a once in a lifetime trip for many. That not everyone has the luxury of saying, “Oh you know, the weather is going to be less than perfect that day, so we should really just wait for another day.” It’s not like people had their babies in bathing suits and were sending them down Splash Mountain in the middle of a snow storm. If your kid is appropriately dressed, weather is not a barrier to fun. In fact, a good mud puddle can only enhance the fun!
I live in Canada. If I let weather get in my way of going outside I would be a recluse. My kid would be a pasty ghost of a person who hisses at the sun. Do you know how bouncy kids get if they’re trapped inside all day? My couch can’t handle that kind of abuse. But outside, he can climb and jump and run and get dirty and it doesn’t matter. Not to mention being outside is actually a safeguard against depression. Don’t take my word for it: one chapter of Last Child in the Woods and you’ll be bundling your kid up in every kind of weather.
In fact, my kid went for his first walk less than 48 hours after he was born. It probably would have been sooner had the hospital let us out the day he was born.
I was terrified bringing him out in subzero temperatures. But I couldn’t stay inside all day when the fresh mountain air was calling my name! If that’s selfish, then I am totally okay with that. In fact, I couldn’t figure out why he would scream bloody murder about ten minutes into our walks. I had been overdressing the poor kid and he was roasting! Turns out, babies are pretty resilient. You know the whole “dress baby with one layer more than you’re wearing” thing? Total myth in our case. My kid is frequently running around naked while I am wearing slippers and a hoodie. Not only is he still alive, he’s pretty damn healthy.
Just because I am a stickler about getting outside doesn’t mean it’s always easy. We have our days when the dog doesn’t get a walk. We have days where we sit on the couch with the blinds shut and play board games and watch movies. Because everything in moderation right? Taking the dog for a walk can take over an hour just due to the screaming fest that is putting on shoes. Oh yeah, did I mention my son actually hates being outside? I have to bribe him with books and turn nature walks into science lessons in order to entice him. Lately he has been enjoying riding his strider bike, but unfortunately it’s not always easy to ride a bike in Canada in February.
It isn’t perfect. It isn’t always. But I do think getting outside is part of being healthy, right up there with diet and exercise, so I try to prioritize it. I try not to let the weather be a barrier. In the summer we wear hats and sunscreen, in the winter we have snowsuits and wool and layers, and we have rain gear and rain boots and sweaters and shorts for everything in between. I have always hated the idea of driving to go for a walk, but sometimes it’s necessary to get out of the neighbourhood and into nature. Unfortunately we don’t all live in nature anymore. But we can make do with what we have.
So yup, that’s probably us with the park to ourselves when it’s -10. I’m sorry if I let my kid play in the mud puddle you’re trying to get yours to avoid. Yes he has a hat and that shirt is SPF 50. I’m trying to grow a happy well adjusted human that appreciates nature and takes care of the world we live in. I’m probably failing miserably, but hey, I still have a few years of denial ahead of me. Yes, I spend more time cleaning up the mess from going outside than actually being outside somedays. But it’s worth it.