Kids / Parenting

Send Your Kids Outside

We Americans like to complain. Since our country’s founding, we’ve complained about the British, a lack of paved roads, the government, robber barons, taxes, and unemployment—to name a few.

Recently, one of the most common complaints I hear (or see on Facebook) concerns the weather.

When did complaining about the weather become a national pastime? It was once enough to complain about politicians, but these days, particularly during winter and in the northern part of the country, we’ve replaced national pastimes of baseball and porch swinging with despairing that St. Paul doesn’t have the climate of San Diego.

As a snot-nosed kid seeking out mischief in suburban Chicago, I could have cared less about the weather. Snowstorms meant snowball fights, snow forts, ice-skating and hockey—oh, and hiding in hedgerows and lobbing snowballs at passersby and cars.

Winter was fun.

But for far too many American parents today, winter is not fun. And so their kids will never know the joys of sledding, snowshoeing or slurping a hot chocolate after spending a little too long outdoors.

And why? As a country, we’ve bought in to the idea that southern California has the ideal weather. Never mind that it’s a desert without enough water to support its population. Or that if the state’s weather were everywhere, we wouldn’t have enough food or water to survive.

Rational arguments aside, why do we worship mild weather? Sure, it may be easier to slip into sandals and slather on sunscreen before heading out to run Saturday errands, but maybe easier doesn’t always result in the happiest of lives.

Just ask the Danish who for several years have been considered the happiest people on the planet. Their neighbors—Sweden and Norway—also rank high on the happiness scale. If you think a Chicago winter is dreary, you might fear you’d be downright suicidal spending winter in Scandinavia. But you’d be wrong. Many of the states and cities with the highest suicide rates aren’t spots that experience cold winters.Obviously, cold winters don’t determine happiness–or, they don’t have to.

So can we stop worshipping warm weather and stop complaining about winter weather? And parents in northern climes, can you send your kids outside to sled, skate and throw snowballs (but not at me, please)?

Just think—your kids will wear themselves out and you can take advantage of some peace and quiet. And fix yourself a hot toddy.

You may still decide you don’t like winter weather. But you’ll be warm inside.


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