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February in New England

February in New England
Sherry Jennings

We don't live in cabins much anymore but cabin fever can be a reality in New England in February especially in a week with three storms. Whether delightful or disappointing the holiday memories have dimmed, the late February swelling of the tree buds has not happened, and it is cold! Maybe you live in a small space, maybe your 5- and 6-year-olds are challenging your patience as they bounce off the sofa and coffee tables while swirling capes and brandishing swords. Then there are the layers and layers of clothing that you have to peel back in order to do a simple diaper change. Going outside? NO WAY!

"Well, she does need some fresh air and I could sure use some." Then the reality of putting snow pants, jacket, scarf, hat, and boots on a squirming toddler creeps in. Never mind having to navigate tiny hands into tiny mittens that will immediately be pulled off. Then judgments arrive about the person who designed the snowsuit in the first place. "Clearly not a mother!"

Now hot and sweaty you are unable to remember whether you had lunch or even breakfast. You may even decide to scrap the entire expedition. "It is just tooooo much!"

Suddenly remembering you both need fresh air, you take charge and forge ahead anticipating that delightful rush of cold air filling your lungs when you step outside. Refreshed by a walk, snowman, sled ride, snow angel, or catching snowflakes on your tongue, you are ready to take up the reverse process — removing all the layers you so carefully applied earlier. "Let’s take a nap!"

You and Your Little One

What about days that are too cold for the little ones or you are not able to muster the forces to go through the dressing and undressing processes? What to do in those moments when cabin fever hits? Don't worry; you don't have to answer these questions. I have some suggestions for you:

  • Take out a book you have never shared with your child and enjoy together the pictures and stories.
  • Learn a new nursery rhyme or two, make up gestures to illustrate, and repeat over and over and over. Rhymes in which you actually touch the child are connecting and offer possibilities for learning body geography.
The sun came up this morning (make a circle with arms overhead)
and chased the stars away (release circle while fluttering fingers)
and kissed my Poppet on the nose (touch pointer finger gently on child’s nose)
with a How-do-you-do-today.
  • Crawl on the floor with your child while playing hide and seek/peek-a-boo.
  • Find a soft cloth or silk and let it gently flutter down over your child while singing about snow. Don't panic! Put any words you make up to some tune you already know; Hot Cross Buns — Snow Falls Down — or enjoy the silence of the moment.
  • Fill a sink with warm, soapy water and some measuring spoons and plastic cups. Add an egg beater and your child can make pies, cakes, muffins. Ivory liquid makes good bubbles. This is also a good activity in the bathtub.
  • Mix flour and water dough for kneading. Maybe add a small rolling pin.
  • Feast your eyes on the colorful flowers pictured in the newly arrived seed catalogs while you and your child enjoy the bright colors.
  • Take a large-eyed needle, thick yarn, and a piece of burlap or old knitted sweater. You thread the needle, with the thread doubled, make a knot and see what they make. You need not teach them anything, just let them stitch. In the end they may tell you what they have made — a dog, a dolly, or a banana. This is for older toddlers.
  • Bake or cook with your child something for dinner or to share with a neighbor.
  • Provide your child with a spray bottle of plain water, a soft cloth and a window.
  • Take a nap together.
  • Try anything that can elicit a giggle! Stand on your head, bend over and look at your child through your legs, put a potholder on your head while spinning in a circle, dance with a wooden spoon.

These are a few examples. Be creative! Basically anything new, adventuresome, novel, an occasional slight change in the usual rhythm may alleviate cabin fever.

Suggestions for You

Don't forget you!

  • During naptime, read a novel and leave the laundry unfolded.
  • Find a way to get out of the house and take a walk without your child.
  • Make sure your child is safe and then take a long, hot bath.
  • Even if you do not find a way to do any of these things, stop and breathe and imagine that you are doing them.

And don't forget spring will arrive!

daffodils in the snow

The Young Child

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