Lately I’ve been missing summer a lot. I miss hiking and going for walks outside every day. I miss taking the little guy to the playground and seeing his pure joy as he plays in the sand or swings on a swing. I miss the long days and swimming in the pool to cool off. I am not sick of the cold, snow or ice though. I am sick of this lack of time outside. It has been so cold lately that taking my son outside longer than a few minutes has just not been feasible. Now that my son is walking well on his own I am itching to walk with him to all these places that he used to only be able get to by rolling in his stroller or riding on my back.
Despite the cold and dreary winter days I have not fallen into misery. Instead I get moving! I go out with little man every day regardless of how cold it is. We are New Englanders and made of hearty stock capable of bearing the coldest temperatures for the ten to fifteen minutes it takes for us to be in the car and get it warmed. Cowering at home because of cold weather or flurries only brings on cabin fever and a mushing of our minds. It’s not always easy to overcome the inertia of sitting inside on a cold day so here are some things you do to make the process easier.
- Pack everything you need the night before: I wake up in the morning tired with a touch of warm and cozy thrown in. The last thing I want to do is venture out in ten degree weather. Anything that makes the process of leaving more difficult will make me more likely to say “F#@k this we’re staying in today.” Plan out what you will need and pack it in the most useful way possible. Here is a quick rundown of what I bring when I go to the YMCA to swim. I put his swim diaper and bathing suit on before we leave. He wears a shirt and pants instead of a onesie to make dressing and undressing him easier. I pack two towels, one for when he gets out of the pool and one for drying him off and changing him after his shower. I bring baby wash and a wash cloth so I can clean all the chlorine off. I bring a lunch and his cup so we can eat in the lobby when we are done. I have left out some items I always have in my bag but I think you get the gist. Having all this together ahead of time will make heading into the cold easier.
- Find easy regular places to go: It’s foolish to think that you are going to undertake an epic journey complete with meals and naps every day during the winter. If you can pull that off then you already have everything figured out and can probably stop reading this mere mortal’s tips. For the rest of us it’s important to have simple and close places to go that don’t require the kind of production I outlined above. A good guideline is that if you need more your diaper bag and a snack to go there then it’s probably not easy enough. I like to go to one of the three local malls to walk and take advantage of their play areas. Westfield Mall in Meriden CT and Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester CT both have play areas that are ideal if you get there early and beat the crowds. Westfarms Mall in West Hartford CT has no play area but it is my favorite to walk in and you can get in as early as 7 if your little one is having one of those mornings. Westfield Mall is my favorite overall because everything you need is close to the play area including family parking spaces, the nicest family restroom of the three, and a most excellent pretzel kiosk. Library story times are excellent options as well and in a pinch I will walk around the local Wal-Mart, Target and Petco. Petco is great because it’s like a little zoo where you don’t have to pay to see the animals.
- Don’t stress how you or your little one looks: Face it stay at home dads. We do a lot and sometimes it’s a miracle that we have the energy to get out of bed in the morning. Imagine if you woke up, couldn’t take a shower, all your kid’s matching outfits are dirty, and both you and your child have matching bead head. Yeah this was yesterday for us. Don’t stay in! Slap on some clean clothes and deodorant because who is really going to get close enough to notice? Grab whatever clothes will fit your kid and know that they aren’t what really makes them look cute and loved. Put on your favorite old hat and don’t stress over your kid’s hair because their winter hat would have made them look like they had bed head anyways. You aren’t a scrub because you didn’t have time to get you and your child looking perfect. Your smiles and evident connection will override any negative perceptions. Get out and don’t use appearances as a reason to become a recluse.
- Dress warm and light: That super heavy coat you got for your kid seems great right? Wrong! Check out Consumer Reports to learn why if you don’t know already. Unfortunately that coat is pretty much useless when go to put your kid in the car. You could put your little one in the coat, take them out of the coat, strap them in and then put over them like a blanket. I choose to use a fleece jacket that is warm but compact and a fleece blanket to keep him warm. When combined with mittens, fleece pants, wool socks and a warm winter hat this method is quite effective. I don’t usually have the luxury of warming the car up first but if this is possible for you go for it. Just remember that you probably won’t be able to do that when you are on your way home.
- Make plans with other people: It’s very easy to stay in when you are the only person holding yourself accountable at the critical moment you decide if you are going out. Setup playdates. Arrange visits with family and friends. Tell the mom of your kid’s new best friend at the library that you will be at the story time program next week. It’s in you and your child’s best interest to do these things anyways but sometimes a simple thing like telling someone you will see them again can be the difference between braving the cold or catching cabin fever.
What works for me may not work for you but I hope you were able to take something useful out of this. It’s easy to stay in when it gets cold outside but you aren’t doing your child or yourself any favors by staying in. Being a recluse is a bad idea all year round. Winter just makes it easier to justify. How are you fighting cabin fever during these cold weeks? Is it going well? What do you struggle with?