Saturday, February 24, 2007


I have so many memories of winter from my childhood. Sledding, skating, building snowmen (and, more often, snow animals), making snow forts, having snowball fights, shoveling the driveway (which at the time I thought I hated, but is actually one of my pleasant childhood memories), making snow angels. Dressing up in ridiculously weatherproof outfits we could hardly move in. Putting my father's way-too-big wool socks on over my tiny socks, the whole thing getting strapped into a plastic baggie then stuffed into an oversized boot. Tramping out the garage door with sled, shovel, skates, everything needed for a fun few hours in the snow. My dad wiping my nose with his handkercheif. The neighbors dog biting our feet while we sledded across 3 backyards, and if we were lucky, into the woods, and if we were VERY lucky, not into a tree.

Jacob's first winter, he was only a few months old, and I bundled him up in adorable fleece buntings and mittens with no thumbs and lovingly tatted lace mohair hats. I strolled around with snowflakes gently landing on my hair and his cheek and dreamed of the fun in the years to come.

His second winter, he sat in a sled while we pulled him about, swallowed up by a slightly-too-large snowsuit over a slightly-too-small fleece one-piece. He screamed. He refused to walk in the snow. He's still too young, we thought. Next year.

His third winter I was quite sick, pregnant with Zoo Boy and not handling it well. I spent the winter indoors. I watched as The Map Map bundled Jacob up and tried pulling him on the sled, tried getting him to take a step in the snow, built a snowman for him while Jacob repeatedly asked to come inside. I shrugged my shoulders and said oh well, next year. I was too sick to let it bother me.

His fourth winter I understood the problem. By then I was well aware of his intollerance of water, of droplets of moisture touching him anywhere on his body. It was a given that he was going to hate snow, wouldn't want to be out walking in it. Our whole parenting/handling autism approach was avoidance of things that upset him. So we spent another winter indoors, me commenting on the snow while watching out the window, Jacob doing his best to ignore me, refusing to even look. I watched The Map Man make snowmen in the yard from the window, as that was the only thing Jacob showed at least a spark of interest in in regards to the wintry weather. Even then, he wouldn't cross the yard to see them up close, would just say "no man" when we pulled out of the driveway. The Map Man made a few unsuccessful attempts to pull him in a sled, but since he wouldn't put any winter clothing on, it made having him out in the snow pretty much impossible.

His fifth winter I had great hope for. We'd started RDI in the fall, and on the various internet lists and message boards and chats I read accounts of all the cool RDI activities people were doing out in the snow with their kids. Donning the role of the optimist, I bought snow pants and boots and mittens and hats. He had a great time playing dress up with them in the house, but when it came to putting them on to go outdoors, it was a no go. He refused to wear the boots, even though it meant he couldn't go out onto the playground with the other kids at school. Half way through the winter he finally submitted to wearing the boots for that, but even then, he'd just stand on the shoveled part of the blacktop, watching the other kids in his class running around and having a great time. At home, if we managed to get the boots on him, he froze in place, unable to move his encumbered feet. Being out during an actual snowstorm was out of the question. He didn't even want to look at the snow as it was falling, as if just the thought of one of those snowflakes touching his cheek was too much to bear.

His sixth winter we made a bit of progress. He actually followed the other kids out onto the playground, picking his way gingerly through the snow with his prized Elmo boots on. I found him an oversized knit hat that was acceptable to him, and a pair of knit mittens that he absolutely fell in love with. At home, he agreed to come out into the snow with us, carefully placing one foot after another in footprints already made by me or The Map Man while Zoo Boy ran gleefully around making trails and begging to be pulled on the sled. Jacob perched anxiously behind his brother on the sled as we pulled. The Map Man tried taking him sledding down the hill in our sheep pasture on several occassions, but each time a bit of snow managed to make contact with his skin and that ended the sessions pretty quickly and with lots of anxiety. My sister invited us on sledding and skating parties with her kids, we politely turned them down. I viewed the photos my dad took of her kids on these ventures, wide smiles and joyful laughter in a whirl of snow and brightly colored woolens. I wondered if Jacob would even learn to enjoy the winter, the season that I as a child had most looked forward to.

And now this winter, Jacob's seventh winter. We started talking about getting ready for winter in November, how the animals all prepared, we pretended to be bears and chipmunks and skunks getting ready to hibernate. We agreed that it would be more fun for us to stay up for the winter, go outside and enjoy the snow rather than sleep through it. Jacob enthusiastically shopped for snow pants, boots, mittens, hats. Hopeful, I came home with a pair of iceskates for him, and he was over the moon at the thought of skating. He talked about building snowmen, and making snow angels, and having snowball fights. I crossed my fingers and held my breath and waited for snow.

During our first breif snowfall in early December, he enthusiastically dressed himself in all his snow gear and ran outside, teaching Zoo Boy how to catch snowflakes on his tongue (something that he'd only seen on a video, never having tried it himself). He laughed at how the snowflakes tickled his cheek as they landed on it. He tasted a handful of snow, and ran madly around the yard leaving tracks all over the place, then following his own tracks to see where they led. We didn't get enough for sledding or snowballs, but I promised him those things would come soon enough.

And then the weather made us wait. Other than that inch or so of snow early on, we saw nary a snowflake for months. In fact, the temperatures warmed up and it was more like spring here than winter for weeks on end. I fretted that his new-found enthusiasm for snow would peter out before he even had a chance to explore it.

But once the snow finally arrived in force, he attacked it like he'd been playing in the snow for years with grand abandon. He took to sledding like an otter, and we've had to get very firm about the amount of time he iss allowed to be out in the bitter cold, as he never wants to come inside, despite frost-kissed cheeks and ice cold fingers. When out and about in town, he purposely goes out of his way to trudge through snow banks rather than walk on the shoveled surfaces. He happily drops into snowy surfaces to make snow angels, and has been making his best attempt at snowballs. (Although, despite our early warm start for the winter, we've yet to have a good snowball or snowman type sticky snow, it's just been too cold for the past month.) When given the chance to go for a walk or a pony ride in a snowstorm, his answer is a resounding yes.

All in all, he's having snowy fun the way I remember it from my childhood. He's rolling down snow hills, nibbling icicles, and trying not to crash into the fence at the bottom of the pasture on his sled (we're thinking a nice sand bank right there might be a good investment in the coming year....). He's enjoying being a 6 year old boy in New England. And that's what winter is all about for me.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home