Up here in Vermont, it’s already been winter for approximately one thousand days. We’ve fielded questions from our kids like “Will I ever feel my face again?,” “Why don’t we live in Hawaii?” and “You want me to go play outside? Do you hate me?” for weeks now.
If parenting is difficult on the blissfully warm, grab and go sort of days, adding a layer of ice, snow, and complaining has the potential to make it nearly unbearable. While completely unscientific, I approximate that there is 85% more crying in my house December-April than the rest of the year. (And that’s just from me.)
I want to embrace winter. Really, I do.
For one thing, it would certainly be in my best interest to actually enjoy this, the season that never ends. With that in mind, this year, I signed my ten year old up for snowboarding lessons.
He (hopefully) cultivates a lifelong love of a sport, and I get to stay home in my pajamas on Saturday mornings, drinking coffee and maintaining circulation in my toes. Everybody wins!
To be fair, it’s an uphill battle. There is seemingly an endless stream of reasons to unabashedly despise this time of year.
And because misery loves company, I asked a couple thousand of my Facebook friends to weigh in on their #winterparentproblems, with added bonus points for sharing ways they’ve found to make it better. Turns out, it’s a discussion everyone wants to have.
Here’s the general consensus of complaint.
1. Wet boots all over the floor
It’s not like the kids leaving their shoes in a heap right in front of the door is strictly a seasonal thing, however, the sheer bulk of boots in combination with salt and sloppy puddles makes for an elevated level of irritation.
The jury is still out of whether my children have learned ALL THE SWEARS on the occasions I’ve stepped in those puddles with socked feet, but hey, it’s only January. Plenty of time to fill out the vocabulary.
You could assemble one of these. Of course a giant, easily accessed tray full of river rocks could be some parent’s worst nightmare, in which case, you could opt for a less throwable/chokable cabinet liner in the tray instead.
2. Wet clothes left in the bag
Filed under “Are You Even Serious Right Now,” would be the morning confession that the kid’s gloves, hat, and snow pants have been left to fester, wet, balled up in a plastic bag all night.
Of course if the kid is of the age where this should be their responsibility, it’s a lesson they may only need to learn a few times. They either play in wet clothes or miss time outside, neither being a super rad option.
For the littler people, well, this scenario is likely your fault. But you managed to bring the right bundled kid home from daycare or preschool, so whatever. You can’t win all the time. Chances are you have a back up set, as kids this age sit in mud puddles just for fun. If you don’t, hit the second hand store ASAP.
One hot tip I learned to dry mittens faster- slide toilet paper tubes inside mittens to maximize aeration. Genius.
Stuff newspaper into boots or invest in one of these fancy boot dryers.
3. Lost gear
Remember the poor little kittens who lost their mittens? Remember how they DID IT FOR THE NINTH TIME AND THEIR MOTHER WENT TOTALLY APESHIT AND SENT THEM BACK TO SCHOOL TWELVE MILES ON FOOT TO FIND THEM? That’s the way that little ditty went, right?
Can someone explain to me how a child leaves the house with a coat in sub-zero temps and manages to return home without it?
There are two camps here. The kids who should be old enough to keep track of their own things, and the kids who are not. Last year, when my third grader misplaced his boots, he was on the hook to pay for a replacement.
The deal is, my husband and I provide the first round of gear. Lose it, and it’s your money that buys the next. Miraculously, they turned up just days later.
My four year old, on the other hand came home from school on the very first day that she had been sent with snow pants and informed me, “I had to borrow today because mine weren’t in my cubby.” You know, the same ones that had been hung up at drop off not fifteen minutes before. Haven’t seen those suckers since.
Label, label, and label again. Label everything down to their damn socks. Then teach them how to identify their stuff. How many pairs of pink snow pants could be floating around one classroom? FOUR DOZEN. Approximately.
Get everyone on board with taking inventory. Tuck mittens into the hat and the hat into the sleeve of the coat.
Send the younger ones to school in hand me downs, back ups, and mismatches.
4. ALL OF THE SICKNESS
Winter turns my house into a round robin of sniffles, vomiting, coughing, and vomiting again. A couple years ago I decided to stash a bucket under my kids’ beds from the moment the first leaf falls until we bust out the bathing suits. I’m not playing around in the middle of the night when someone inevitably wakes up like Linda Blair. Everywhere is a GD petri dish, and kids find a way to sneeze DIRECTLY INTO YOUR MOUTH.
Wash your hands frequently. Obvs.
Use a new toothbrush after a round of colds or flu or whatever nasties may befall your household.
Drink more water.
Don’t be the person that shows up at the party with the snotty kid. Extend the courtesy of keeping your family’s germs to yourselves.
5. The added risk of falling on ice, especially while holding a small person
I never felt more proud of my maternal instincts than the time I was wearing my dozing infant, slipped on black ice and managed to fall in such a way that I not only avoided cracking her skull open, but I also absorbed every iota of impact while she remained COMPLETELY ASLEEP.
Because the likelihood of horrifically falling was far greater than doing it again gracefully, I took a page from the mailman handbook and bought a sweet pair of these ice grippers that slide right over your shoes.
6. Cabin fever
Whether your kids love winter or not, there’s no contesting the fact that they spend far more time indoors these months than others. It’s dark before dinner, everything takes more planning, and even the heartiest get cold eventually.
Screen time is up, physical activity is down, and everyone is just that much closer to sticking their head in the oven.
This was a seasoned group of parents that I polled. Most are life long east coasters who have slogged through a collective 8 MILLION WINTERS and lived to tell the tale. Some of my favorite suggestions were:
Jogging trampoline. Whether you throw it down in the basement or allow it to take up prime real estate right smack in the middle of the living room, it doesn’t matter. Just go ahead and encourage them to jump, jump, JUMP until their head feels loose.
Clear out space in the garage or basement where they can roll around on whatever wheels they prefer. Set up a space heater.
Yoga balls are great for bouncing.
Crib mattresses are also great for dragging to the floor and jumping on.
Glue felt to the bottom of an old skateboard deck and let them carpet surf.
And, if all else falls, there’s always mall walking.
7. All of the dryness
So, how does it feel to live in the Sahara? Do you like waking up like someone shoved cotton balls all the way down your throat? Enjoying those chapped lips? How about the horror stories that have been relayed to me about the kids who apply the same finesse they use to piss all over the toilet seat to their weekly bloody nose? At least 3 people told me they’ve recently washed blood off walls. Come ON. Winter, you’re the worst.
Put a bottle of lotion next to the soap at every sink. Apply after each hand washing.
Buy a small army of humidifiers.
Maybe watch a few episodes of Dexter so you can really nail the clean up process.
8. Maintaining car seat safety while keeping the kid warm
This is the new frontier of parenting woes. (Legit, mind you. I’m not trying to be dramatic.) Lord knows our parents threw us into the back of our tuna can of a family car without so much as a car seat. Times have changed. Now we all know phrases like, “five point harness” and “latch system.”
On top of that, we now all know that you aren’t supposed to wrestle a kid and their Stay Puft Marshmallow Man coat into the seat. But how are you supposed to manage wrangling them out into the cold, into the car, back into the cold, back into the car while keeping them safe and avoiding the side eye of every Judgy Know It All who is certain your child is going to get pneumonia?
This is the most comprehensive write up available on how to properly manage this situation. The Car Seat Lady FTW.
There are coats that squish enough under car seat straps to pass muster. Here are some great suggestions.
9. Scathing jealousy of those on vacations in warm climates
Seriously, jerks. Stop with your Facebrag photos of palm trees and your stupid pedicured toes in the sand. Since I know you’re out of town, Imma head to your house and cover your windows in my kid’s sticker collection.
Hide them, unfriend them, and make new friends who are so deep in student debt they won’t be taking a vacation until 2048.
10. Time spent preparing vs. time actually spent outside
Holy hell, if this isn’t the resounding cry of winter weary parents everywhere. First of all, I’m certain it takes astronauts less time to gear up for a mission to Mars than it does to wrangle a
rabid squirrel dipped in vaseline toddler into winter gear. And if you have more than one to dress, forget it. Don’t even bother. Building a ship in a bottle, then backing over it with your car is probably a more productive use of time.
Allegedly, these mittens are a favorite among daycare providers.
Let them pick out really ugly stuff that you’d never choose, but they are excited about. It may not be the warmest, but it’ll be warmer than the stuff you buy and they refuse to wear.
For the kids who get snow in between their coat sleeves and mittens and act like they’ve been set on fire, these mittens are essential.
Honorable mentions (with little to no solutions.)
When your kids have a snow day, but you still have to work.
Winter sports are EXPENSIVE.
Teenagers who refuse to dress appropriately.
All the extra time you have to pad onto leaving the house (or anywhere)
Dirty, salt streaked car, inside and out.
Frozen glasses. (My favorite contribution, hands down. “Dealing with frozen glasses. My kid was pissed about the ice on his eyewear and threw them down to the floor the other day. We’re waiting on the new pair for him to break.”)