I am no stranger to a Midwest winter. Or so I thought.
As in many cases since 2012, I learned experiencing a winter season with young children is a far different story than it was during my solo years. Not only is it more bodies to dress, more mittens and boots and hats to keep track of, it also means a different daily routine. Little ones have different needs and different energy levels, making me long for the cozy and quiet winter hibernation of my past. Cozy was okay with an infant; it doesn’t last long with a toddler.
And yet, I have survived. Or more accurately, I am currently still surviving seeing as the temperatures are well below freezing today and I can still see piles of snow out my window. In April. (UPDATE: The snow is GONE!!!)
I thought it would be fun to share a few lessons I am proud to say I have mastered this year in my quest to conquer Winter. Most were gathered trial and error. Some were past down by my wise winters savy teachers in parents who have been through this season before. Perhaps there are some you can use. And if not, maybe you know a friend about to head into their first winter as a new parent and could use a few wins under their belt.
Here are the few things that make me proud to earn the badge of Winter Parent.
Learn the Temperature of your Children.
This falls under the category of trial and error. Let me just explain, I discovered not all children contain the same type of body heat. I hate whining. HATE whining. And it was important to me to get my children to learn to love winter early and often seeing as this is their new normal (until well into April apparently.) So I purchased the warmest double layer coats I could find at Lands End, stocked up on hats and mittens, and made sure their drawers were filled with warm sweaters, sweatshirts, and base layers for under clothes. And yet, I experienced whining from both of my children, in different ways. Caroline, complained she was too hot. Nearly every time. Part of this is when we were out about she was bounding around more than her brother. But part of this is just her body makeup. When she came home from school every single day having taken off the sweater I sent her to school with, and discovering her arms were warmer than mine, I decided to trust her body awareness. She just doesn’t require as many layers, especially the more she ran around and played outside. Her brother, on the other hand, would quickly switch from fine to inconsolable the moment he felt a bit of cold. I had to make sure he always had multiple layers on, keep his hands and feet dry, and always have a blanket on hand to cover up his hands.
Moral of the story: learn how your children respond to temperatures and trust them. Whining because of being too hot or too cold is not worth it.
Tackling Sensitive Dry Winter Skin.
My youngest has super sensitive skin, and the winter dryness only adds to the challenge. I’ve never been great at moisturizing my kids. Both of them HATE to be cold after bath so lotioning felt like a chore, a chore I would happily skip. But as the winter dryness kicked in, we had to step it up. For general moisturizer we always used Honest company or Burt’s Bees everyday lotion. But I found this just wasn’t enough for Elliott. What works the best for him is Aquaphor. I buy it by the tub and slap it on the most sensitive areas around his lips and along his back and waistline. The other way we help with dry skin, fewer baths. And if you have known me for more than 5 seconds you know this is not a problem. In fact, I plan on going from few winter bath season straight into baths in the sprinkler season. Doctor’s orders.
Hand Warmer Thingies are Fantastic.
Both Mike and I have distinct memories of using those hand warmers as kids and nearly burning our fingers from how hot they get. Needless to say I was a bit hesitant to ever try them with my kids. When we were down at the super bowl festivities this winter, volunteers were passing them out for free and we decided to give them a try when both our kids starting complaining of cold hands and feet. I don’t know if we were just chimps, or if they have changed the formula but they were amazing. I stuck one in each mitten and boot and it was just enough warmth to instantly warm up their whole body. From now on, I am going to stock up on those each winter and pull them out if we plan on being outside for walks or even winter play. It was especially helpful for Elliott who was being carried in a backpack carrier so not moving his body to keep warm.
Stroller Mittens are Winter Walk Essential.
For Christmas, I received a pair of these stroller mittens from my in-laws. Stroller Mittens you say? How ridiculous. You would be wrong. These things are AMAZING. No seriously. They are extra large mittens that velcro onto the stroller handle with the softest fleece you ever felt on the inside. I was able to go for very long walks in very cold temperatures and my hands felt like they were sitting by a cozy fire under the warmest blanket. But why wouldn’t you just wear your own warm mittens? Why do they have to be attached to the stroller? A couple of reasons. First, between children dropping snacks or requiring blanket/mitten adjustments as well as control your phone buttons to find the next podcast, you are frequently needing your five fingers. Taking gloves and mittens off and on is such a hassle (first world problem, I know.) I could quickly pull my hands out, put them to work, and slip them back into the mittens that were still warm and cozy waiting to snuggle my hands. Second, walking around in the snow and ice can get very slippery, especially as the temperatures fluctuate throughout the winter. I always felt so secure when holding onto the stroller inside those mittens. It’s like a grandma and her walker. Nothing was going to push me down. Stroller Mittens are a must, my winter parenting friends.
Thumbs up for Mitten Placement.
This may be the silliest thing to write about but I was so tickled with pride when I finally figured this one out. Upon asking around with my smart winter mama friends, I discovered mittens are the best way to go with toddlers. But have you ever tried to struggle with putting on a mitten just right on those children’s hands? It’s impossible. I never tried, in fact. I just shoved it on his hand all five fingers in one big hole. He didn’t need that thumb. But after a while he would get frustrated and ask me to fix it. And then I would wiggle and squish for far too many wasted minutes trying to get that thumb placement just right. I don’t remember how we first tried this, but I finally learned if I told him to give me a fist and a thumbs up, we could get that thumb in the right hole every time. Every time! And he thought it was the coolest thing to have that thumb there! Who knew? It really is the little lessons that make you feel like a rock star parent.
I’d say I earned myself that Winter Mom Badge. Stay tuned tomorrow for some of my personal winter wins.
Now it’s your turn. Share all your winter smarts! I know there are more out there!