I know many things about child-rearing. I know that tired three-year-olds should not be allowed near blocks and telephone handsets in the middle of temper-tantrums. I know that one-year-olds are not meant to be spotted, and should they happen to break out in spots, someone with an M.D. ought to be consulted in short order. I know that four-year-olds… well, to tell the truth, I don’t know much about managing four-year-olds, but I do know that they turn into five-year-olds, which isn’t a whole hell of a lot better.
What I don’t know is what to do with three children when it is too cold to play outside, day after day. You must understand – my standards for “too cold” are pretty stringent. If it is above freezing, it is warm enough to get outside for at least twenty minutes. When we lived in Philadelphia with one toddler, most winter days had a window of opportunity before lunch that allowed Zachary to let off some steam outdoors. When we lived in London with one preschooler and one toddler, we could usually hit the playground after nap. It was pitch-dark, but the playground was near some streetlights and it was warm enough to play, provided we wore proper rain-gear. When we lived in Los Angeles with one pre-kindergartener, one preschooler, and one toddler, it was light enough and warm enough to play outside, and since we went almost an entire year without seeing rain, the kids got some sort of gross-motor activity almost every day.
Here? It is bright and sunny and lovely and very, very cold. Day after day, it is just too damned cold to even attempt a playground, what with water on the slides and ice on the climbing equipment. When it snows, we can suit the kids up and take them out to help me shovel. The boys are actually quite helpful, which is surprising, given that their father is totally useless in a snowstorm. Five minutes into shoveling, he’ll start whining that he is too cold. This works out just fine for me, as the person outside doesn’t have to deal with putting mittens and snowpants on the kids, then taking them off fifteen minutes later when they get sent inside because they were tired of snow removal and started using their shovels as Weapons of Minor Destruction.
There are some indoor play areas, but I just cannot stomach bringing them to McDonald’s to play. The thought of teaching them that Mickey D’s is a wonderful, hospitable place fills me with dread for adulthoods nourished by Supersized Fries and Triple Cheeseburgers. And I think I have made my stand on Chuck E. Cheese’s quite clear.
We have gotten a membership at a tiny children’s museum that is about fifteen minutes away. It is a slightly dingy but quite educational little establishment. The boys can turn handles to create electricity and Lilah can pop her head in and out of the Van Gogh curtain, laughing with abandon. It may not provide the same cardiovascular experience that an hour of bike riding provides, but at least they are getting out of the house.