In My Ohio

​On Being a Father During Winter Times

Darren C. Demaree
​Every snow is epic to a child. The world, which was once landscape only, has been transformed overnight into a fluffy playground. It takes a lot for a child (mine are two and five) to look beyond themselves, but a good snow does just that. They want to be; they have to be outside, right now, please, oh come on, yes? Yes!
I say embrace it. Take them outside every time they want to go. Take the dogs for long walks with them. Put them on a sled and run around the yard until your bad right knee refuses to go any further. Buy them little shovels, and watch how happy they are to work on the path to the front door. They will bring up possible child labor law infractions when they’re thirteen, but it will be a decade before your father (the lawyer) tells them of such things.
Yes, every time, yes. So far this winter, we have had sled races, snowball fights, and we have built an entire menagerie of snow animals. There have been snow turtles, snow rabbits, snow ducks, snow dogs, and snow dinosaurs. Apparently neither of my children has the drive to build any snowmen, but really I’m okay with that. The gender bias towards making snowmen has been unchallenged for too long. Every animal gets a carrot nose and buttons for eyes. Every animal is eventually a victim of my son’s eventual metamorphosis into Snow Godzilla. Which really is a cross between Snow Zombie (arms extended, growling and muttering, walking slowly) and a Snow Prince (there is singing involved as well).
The reason why I say yes is four-fold. One, in Ohio we have long winters, and I don’t want the season to be a downer for them. I want them to get excited about the cold and the snow, and they need to see that I can have as much fun with it as they can. Two, their imaginations are in full force for the entire hour (it’s rarely more than an hour) they are out there. All of those snow animals and games were their idea, even the shoveling is my daughter’s idea. Three, physical exertion in the snow is incredible. They get a work out like they never have during the summer. They run around then as well, but this is hard running. When we go inside they’re exhausted, and that means early to bed or it’s naptime. My kids are still young enough that a great night sleep is not guaranteed for them or my wife and I. Take them outside in the snow for a bit, and we could have a basement show at our house that night, and they would sleep through the whole thing. Four, the hot chocolate. I am not too old for a reward. Whenever we go out for a while, we are all rewarded with cups of hot chocolate. It’s the best, and as the adult I am entitled to the most marshmallows in my cup.
The only downside is all of the layers and preparation. It can take forever to corral them, to get their sweaters and snowsuits on. Getting those mittens on (that never, ever want to go or stay on) their hands is always a debacle. The only plus is that they always look hysterically funny by the time they make it out the door. Also, (veteran’s tip) if you agree to shovel the driveway first, you can normally get out of the process. The removing of all of those clothes takes only a minute if there’s hot chocolate waiting. I love winter in Ohio, and that affection has only grown since I had kids. I always say yes to going outside with them, if only because I am damn curious about what they will come up with this time.