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The great outdoors

The last few months – five or six months, even – have been horrid in New England. I don’t think anyone can tell you they’ve been through a worse winter than this past one, with freezing temperatures, cloudy skies and blustery conditions the norm every day for weeks on end.

Still, people do go off to work, even if they grumble about it a bit. They still get in their cars, they still march off to the transit stop, and some hardy ones still get on their bikes and pedal against the icy winds.

But as a stay-at-home dad, it has been a pretty rough ride. With a two-year-old in tow – well, 2.5 years old now, but same difference – it’s a little harder to go out. As any parent will tell you, a young child’s skin is more sensitive to the elements than adult skin is. That’s why they always tell you to put a hat on your young’un when you go to the beach – they get sunburn far more easily than you will, and moreover, the consequences of getting sunburned at a young age can be long and far reaching.

The flip side goes for cold conditions too. The rule of thumb is to dress your kid as you’d dress yourself for the elements, but add one more layer. That way you can be assured they’ll be comfortable. But that doesn’t change the fact that their face is bitterly exposed, and frostbite is a very real possibility.

So what do we do? We stay inside. Sans car, because X takes the car to work every day. We stay inside, and develop the worst case of cabin fever, and drive each other mad.

It did happen to me. I could hear the frayed ends of sanity calling me, to quote the good people of Metallica. It was a tough ordeal, and it’s hard to come up with any creative endeavours if you’re in the house all day long.

I did come up with a few clever things though:

1) Make a house out of the beanbags we have in the living room. Little YY never gets tired of that.
2) Take some large paper and draw train tracks on it, and build tunnels out of cardboard cereal boxes and tape them down. Presto, your very own homemade train track! And YY loved this too, especially with his little Thomas the Tank Engine trains.
3) TV.
4) Read books.
5) TV.
6) TV.
7) TV.

Yes, that’s pretty much it. In the beginning, I get clever, I have fun, I enjoy doing stuff with the little guy. But after some time, when he’s bored of everything I’ve come up with, then we resort to the surrogate babysitter, the idiot box, the boob tube, whatever you call it. Our Netflix subscription page is now covered in recommendations of Super Why, Scooby Doo, and all kinds of little cartoons.

But now, it’s April. The weather’s getting much, much better. We are going outside a lot more. Interestingly, I find it so much easier to look after little YY when we’re outside. He’s more occupied with discovery, with exploration, with doing stuff on his own. It’s also a great pleasure to see him wide-eyed with wonder, big, smacking grin on his face, and exclaiming and running around like a banshee, and making the most of his time out there. It’s fun to be outside.

And he really does follow after his parents, being an outdoorsy type of person. As we head into spring and summer, going camping, going on hikes and bike rides, going to the beach, going to parks with lakes filled full of ducks and geese, squirrels, birds, and all kinds of neat little animals, I’m really looking forward to doing all that with the boy.

Keith MacKenzie

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