how to have a happy childhood

Here comes the sun...
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.  🙂

photo credit: chantrybee

12 comments

  • I can't prove that happiness is directly proportional to warm days. Although I personally believe it is. But the incidence of seasonal affective disorder drops as you move to lower latitudes.

    So while days with more sun (and thus more warmth) won't necessarily make you happy, they are less likely to make you miserable. And I'll take neutral over miserable any day.

  • At least we have four seasons, Steve. Now, you only have one-and-a-half.

    (sorry, couldn't resist)

    It's an old book (1990s), and I don't think she really nailed it, but you might want to pick up a copy of Annalee Saxenian's Regional Advantage. As an academic with experience in both, she compared the relative cultural advantages of Silicon Valley and the Boston area as incubators of high technology business. One of the more relevant conclusions was that you were more likely to take an entrepreneural risk in Silicon Valley than Boston. In the Valley, if you failed and had to sleep on a park bench, at least you wouldn't freeze to death.

  • When I was a kid, my friends and I spent all day outside, playing baseball, swimming, bike riding, etc. Nowadays, my neighborhood is quiet, although there are plenty of kids here. They're either at summer camp, or holed up in their rooms playing video games or surfing the internet. So much for progress. I wouldn't trade my “primitive” childhood for all of the gadgets in the world.

  • I had a happy childhood as well, even though we were very poor growing up.
    I had tremendous freedom to do what I want (because I could handle it) and I was out and about constantly. I didn't need too much money to have fun.
    As for the weather, it was rarely cold here in BC, Canada but it rained constantly.
    At least you don't have to shovel the rain.

  • This is really very interesting read, I will definitely share this article with others as well to encourage them. Thanks for covering this topic.

    Debra

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  • I will add a few words “for” having winter – I love snow to some degree, mostly first few times it snows in winter. It's beautiful, it's calming, it's charming. That's it. After that it's old news. I enjoyed skiing as well but that was before I had kids. We had fun time going outside with our son and played in the snow and built a snowman. Most of the time we spent indoors, though, because of our infant daughter. Try to bundle everybody up for half an hour only to spend 15 minutes outdoors. When we had only one baby (read before baby can walk, after they learn to walk they don't want to sit still) I would take him for a walk in a stroller on a cold winter day. I was the only freak walking outside. Everybody saw me out their windows and knew it was ME.
    We used to say good-byes at the playground in November for the winter. “See you in 6 months” – we would say. We did organize playdates here and there but not everyday. Anyway, it's not all black and white. So, for all you people staying behind, don't be too jealous, just a little bit.

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  • I can see where you are coming from, but I have had a different experience. I grew up in a climate with a nice and often long winter. I had a happy childhood, too, spending lots of time outside all year long. These days I shovel snow at home, since I am the dad of the house, but I still get almost as excited about the first snow as I did when I was a kid. I love the snow and mountains neither one of which can be found in Florida, which is why I won't be found living in Florida. Different strokes for different folks. Enjoy your life in Florida!

  • I grew up here in upstate NY, I lived in Polk County, Florida for 6 years but recently moved back to the mother land. I do miss the beach more than anything but nothing beats 4 seasons 🙂

  • I grew up here in upstate NY, I lived in Polk County, Florida for 6 years but recently moved back to the mother land. I do miss the beach more than anything but nothing beats 4 seasons 🙂

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