By Jamie Bachmann, Wildlife Educator
This post is a continuation of the list of reasons why I coax my children out of doors on cold winter days.
Reason #2- Accepting Change and Learning to Adapt
What is your favorite season? While I don’t think I have a favorite season, I have been able to recognize that what I enjoy most about the seasons are the moments of change between them.
I love the relief that spring brings from winter’s extreme cold. Then once the thaw hits, I find myself wishing for a thorough warming in my bones that only a prairie summer can give. Then I’m ready for sweater-weather — fall’s cooling relief is always gentle, and I welcome it. Winter invariably returns, bringing rest — the symbolic death — and I look forward to hunkering down and storing my reserves. But it’s not too long before I’m desperate for the inevitable rebirth of spring and the desire to stretch.
There is great value in connecting our children to the outside world in all its states. The changing of each season can provide useful lessons: Seasonal transitions teach children about the cycles of life and how life adapts. And winter is no exception. It’s easy to stay inside until the arrival of the perfect, sunny, 75-degree day with no wind. Those days are blessings, and they teach us to be grateful. However, we shouldn’t waste opportunities to make memories and learn lessons by sitting inside in front of a screen until the perfect day arrives.
Getting my “kiddos” outdoors on cold, blustery days of prairie winter teaches them to accept change and to acclimate. They know they need boots, layers and the hats that keep the wind out of their ears. And in their attempts to get out of the wind or to find drifted snow to romp in, the places they investigate and play on our property change constantly throughout the winter — they are learning to adapt.
What happened to the leaves on the trees? How do the birds stay warm and find food? Why is the sky dark so early?
I encourage my boys to ask questions, which will help them understand how the natural world adjusts to change. Hopefully, being able to witness this process before their eyes will help them gain perspective within their own lives: that we, as humans, also must adapt to change. In stepping out into the wide, frozen world of winter, I hope I’m helping my children to collect the tools they need for a happy life.
Reason #3 – Teaching Resiliency and Building Character
“Relative,” as an adjective, is the consideration of something in relation or in proportion to something else. Although the average Nebraskan keeps their home heated somewhere around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, there is nothing that will make a house feel cozier and warmer than getting out in temperatures that are below our comfort zones. It is this use of the relative that I employ in my hopes of raising a couple resilient boys.
Do I always feel like getting up at 5 a.m. in the winter and walking a mile through a hay field in the dark with three dogs? No. When the alarm goes off, I have to conjure up a certain amount of will. I have to reject the instant gratification of my warm, soft bed for the long-term benefits of resiliency being created when I, or anyone, steps out of their comfort zone. I want my kids to feel this. I want my kids to know what this is.
So, when I take my kids outside in the winter, I listen with a smile on my face to any whining or complaining. I handle the struggle of getting a couple kids geared up to go outside, sometimes in -15-degree temps, with as much patience and humor that I can muster.
Nothing can build character like a Nebraska winter — I’m sure some old farmer said this to me at least once. Although there is discomfort, this character-building process doesn’t have to be back-breaking work. My kids always have fun when I take them out on these cold days, always. They may not always look forward to it, and while we are out, there may be some tears shed or a quick retreat due to wet shoes and cold fingers, but these moments are always recollected by them afterward with love and excitement. During these challenging times, I’ve watched them push through their comfort zones to see what was on the other side — and they liked it. Sometimes, as a parent, it’s so hard not to say, “I told ya so.”
Life is not always a sunny, 75-degree day. It’s inevitable that my children, your children, all of us will have struggles and lessons to learn in our lives. I think it’s how we handle these struggles — these harsh Nebraska winters — that define our character. When life gets messy and uncomfortable, I hope that my children will call upon these outdoor experiences that pushed them out of their comfort zones for inspiration, that during those seemingly miserable days out with mom, they learned preparedness, problem solving and level-headedness.
And then, when the weather breaks and we get a 40-degree day, it won’t seem so bad coming out of what “feels like” -15 degrees. Forty degrees will feel sunny and warm, and we’ll be relieved and grateful. ■
Read part 3 of why I pull my kids out the door in winter here: https://magazine.outdoornebraska.gov/2022/02/why-i-take-my-kids-outside-in-winter-part-3/
About Jamie Bachmann
Jamie Bachmann is a wildlife educator in partnership with the Nebraska Game and Parks and the Northern Prairies Land Trust, among other things. Her true passion is in connecting folks emotionally to nature. She can be found in the hills of the Elkhorn River valley, cutting cedar trees, coaxing a teenage child outside and failing miserably at convincing her dog he is a cow herder.