I’ve been going through the curriculum materials on routines and housekeeping in preparation for Thursday’s parenting class, and I’ve come upon the following words of advice:
- Clean out your refrigerator each week, removing all items from their shelves. Be sure to wipe down the crispers, as well as the walls and shelves.
- Set aside a time each day to take the children outdoors. Bundle them up in cold weather – the fresh air will help them sleep.
Does anyone actually do this? Refrigerator cleaning every week? Outdoor play every day?
Personally, I always feel like an exceptionally good mother when I get the children outside in the backyard. I do not allow this pleasant sensation to be disturbed by the fact that such outdoor play occurs only about once a month in winter (if they’re lucky). Nor do I allow my good-mother vibe to be compromised by any of the following circumstances:
- Absence of hats, mittens, and snowpants.
- Pushing and shoving over who gets to go down the slide.
- Full-scale tantrum when it’s time to go back indoors.
Yesterday marked the first such backyard excursion since the arrival of snow. As I was pulling into the driveway after picking up the kids from daycare, the next-door neighbours came roaring out of their van, issuing invitations to come play. It was a beautiful crisp afternoon, still bright at five pm, so I agreed to meet our neighbours in the back yard in five minutes, thinking I’d snowsuit the kids up and then take them out through the back door.
I had reckoned without my children’s love of habit. They understood the plan to go play in the back yard, but did not see why that should interfere with their usual routine of removing all outerwear as soon as they come in the door. So off came the coats and boots, and we trooped solemnly through the house in our sock feet. When we got to the back door, coats and boots went back on, mittens were discovered to be still in the car, hats were rejected in favour of hoods, and at that point snowpants somehow seemed to be more effort than they were worth.
Decked thus in their bad-mother winter apparel (or lack thereof), brother and sister slipped and slid across the deck until they landed on the snowy path at the top of the yard, their faces aglow as they stood stock-still, clearly having no idea of what to do next. They love snow, but they’re not entirely comfortable with it. Bub, for instance, has shown a dogged determination to avoid getting snow on his boots ever since the first snowfall. Before getting into the car, he always carefully wipes his boots off on my pantleg, and if any residual flakes are still clinging to the soles he protests delicately, "Oh, it’s getting too wet all over the car!" (It’s nice that he’s so protective of the upholstery, though I wish he’d apply the same fastidiousness to my clothing!)
So it took a bit of persuasion for him to venture off the path. I got him warmed up with a few foot-stamping exercises, and then our yard was invaded by the 5- and 7-year-old neighbours who hooted and hollered and improvised games of soccer and tag. My children stumbled enthusiastically into the fray (with Bub even throwing out a few verbal greetings: "Where are you going?" "Ready, set, go!" "One-two-three-four – good job!"). It was nearly dark before I finally persuaded them to say goodbye and return to the house.
I thought I had actually done it – an outdoor play session without the ceremonial closing tantrum ritual – but as soon as we stepped through the door a comedy of errors ensued. With Bub’s first step onto the kitchen floor, his feet flew out from under him and he crashed to the floor. I tried to lift the Pie over his prone body so I could get inside to help him up, but misjudged the distance, placing her booted feet on his tummy (I figured out my error when his sobs of pain turned into howls of protest). When I finally got her over Bub’s still-howling self, it was her turn to go belly-up: her boots hit the floor and slid out from under her in one smooth motion, planting her squarely on her bum beside her brother. So I plucked the boots off of both howling children, fielded their horrified shrieks of, "Socks getting wet" as they tramped through the puddles into the living room; I grabbed some extra socks and pulled them over Bub’s toes (heeding his warning to "put socks on more carefully, Mama!"), then grabbed Pie’s reddened fingers and rubbed the warmth back into them. And then, at last, we were warm and cozy enough for me to say, "That was fun playing outside in the backyard, wasn’t it!"
It was. But I don’t plan on doing it every day.