Over the last few weeks, as we’ve discussed our move to Florida with other parents, the inevitable comment – other than the “oh there’s no state income tax there” or “oh, the cost of living must be much lower there” – has been “think of us when it’s October and you’re outside playing and we’re stuck at home.”
I grew up in the Deep South. Winter meant jackets, not heavy coats, and snow meant a dusting and a nuclear-war level alert by the local school districts. A half inch of snow meant weeping mothers, runs on canned foods at the supermarket and preparations for the breakdown of society. As kids, snow wasn’t really much of a factor one way or another for us. Life was the hot season and everything else.
Yet I’ve spent three winters with a child in the northeast and learned that the seasons of a childhood here are the outdoor season and the indoor season. This year, we had a long indoor season. When I lost my last consulting contract, we were faced with an odd prospect – Papa was going to be home all winter but we had to watch money because we had no income coming in.
I count myself lucky. My wife and I, despite having many differences of opinion on money, have aggressively saved against a day such as…well, these days. The long cold winter wasn’t filled with trips to Disneyland but it wasn’t filled with Ramen noodles and sweaters-versus-50-degree-thermometers, either. We had the means to prepare.
But at the same time, I had a long winter not working – unless you count blogging as work – to think about what made a happy childhood and one of the recurring thoughts I had was that outdoor time was precious. I’m not sure about my daughter yet, but my son appears to rocket into full form when he’s outdoors. He seems happiest outside. He seemed restricted and bored indoors throughout the winter, and once a mild spring/summer (whatever this miserable pseud0-season is here in New Jersey) arrived, he launched outdoors with a vengeance. His childhood – at this early stage – could appear to be defined by the ratio of indoor to outdoor time.
I know some people will wax nostalgic about snowmen, or snowballs, or mulled tea. Not me. For me, a happy childhood – and to some extent, a happy adulthood – are directly proportional to warm days. Wish me luck as I seek to prove this theory. 🙂