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Winter Parenting Is the Worst

My God, the winters are tough.

As a parent, I have known no other challenge as steep or slick as the one which kicks off around the week before Thanksgiving here where I live in Pennsylvania, and continues right on up until April.

Or even … dare I say it?

May.

Ugh.

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Five or six months of inside living can’t be considered humane, even when you’re a carefree singleton in college or a half-loaded bachelor living out the wild last shards of your youth. But when you throw kids into the mix, especially young kids with restless hearts and boundless reserves of energy that need to be siphoned off like pressure cooker steam, life for regular moms and dads simply becomes a string of days marked by this awful winter madness not at all unlike Jack Nicholson's character's experience in The Shining.

As I write this, it is just a few days after Christmas, and yet we’ve already been bombarded with snow in my part of the world. The winds have been blowing harshly against the side of our house since, like, the day after Halloween. They never let up. Never ever, ever; they just bang up against the siding, stopping only long enough to bully the porch swing with hard shoves as I stand in the front window with a 4-year-old daughter wrapped around my one leg and a 2-year-old hyena son clinging to my other one, my face a mixture of horror and horrified.

I thought I could just pretend it wasn’t happening, too. That’s how brain-dead I get this time of year. We went to the park yesterday, my boy, Henry, and I. It was supposed to be a "guys' day" outing, a little quality time the two of us could share together while my wife, Monica, and Violet headed off to do their own thing. (Hot chocolate at the bookstore. Smart!)

The minute I climbed out of my ride in the parking lot of the park and pushed the door of the Honda open, ramming it into the 600 mph gale that was sweeping across our valley, I knew I was in for it. Henry, oh sweet delightful Henry; the poor kid had such a genuine grin off happiness strung between his lips.

They had watched all the TV shows and movies they could stomach at this point.

“Dad, can we go on da swides!?”

“Daddeeee, can we pway in the sandbox?”

“Dad! Let’s ride swings!”

What had I done? There was so much 100-proof hope in his words as I unbuckled him from his carseat. Ugh. For a second there I felt ashamed for even letting him grow up in this land of stupid frozen dreams.

“Daddee! Let’s go over to…”

His wee lips froze mid-sentence. His back rose up in a hump as he tried to protect the small of his tender little chicken neck from the stinging wasps of wind. Truth be told, I’m thinking that he probably would have cried fat tears right then and there, too, just as the real world hit him like a horseshoe in the chest, except that I think all of the fluid in his body had iced up before he had time to even half-process the pain.

What can you say to a little boy in that moment, you know?

I screamed at him, like a fool, through the gale, "Wheee! It’s windy out here today! Let’s try and run around on the soccer field, OK?”

But all the fun, all the "guys' day" foolishness had already been swept airborne and was three counties away by now. Running around, at this point, was honestly the only way I could imagine us staying alive; either that or just leaving flat out. But I am a man of my word, if nothing else, so we set out toward the swing sets and jungle gyms, two sad bundles of immeasurable disappointment and cheek burn.

We managed to have a few laughs in the end. At least I think they were laughs. It could have been Henry’s weak gasps as he was trying desperately to break off a piece of oxygen from the relentless gusts blowing by us. We stayed, I don't know, maybe 15 minutes before (no lie!) a snowman ran by us and called us two crazy bastards in the fleeting moments before a whirl of compressed Arctic air shattered his plump body into a trillion crystals of nothingness.

Back in the car, headed for the relative safety of our home, I was once again overcome by this growing trepidation that eats me alive in the winter time.

What the hell were we going to do now?

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How was I going to entertain two kids who had already played with every toy that they own and colored in every coloring book they have, TWICE. They had watched all the TV shows and movies they could stomach at this point, too, and it was only December.

ONLY DECEMBER???!!!!

WTF!!!???

Anyway, it’s the eye of the storm, I guess. We made it that far, at least. Thanks to Christmas we’ll have a few new gadgets and gizmos to mess around with for a while, so I’ve bought a little time, I think. Yet, any parent who has been through this knows the the cold, hard truth, and the truth is this: We’ll be one lucky family if the cops don’t roll up here one fine spring morning many moons from now just to find a couple of feral kids hanging out with two fat dogs, all of them licking the grease off of their lips and burping like savages as they sit there, unable to move, a semi-circle of food coma beats sitting atop the licked-clean bones of a mom and dad who, once upon a time, fought old man winter and lost.

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