Growing up in the Midwest, our winters were below freezing most of the time. With six children at home, my parents had their hands full keeping us in warm clothing. Many a day I wore old wool socks on my hands. As a middle child, I never had “new” clothes. Hand-me-downs were common, and patches were sewn over holes. Mother would add length to our jeans with whatever material was near, and shirts were made from cloth that was bought at a discount. I never minded– in fact, I enjoyed being a little different.
When it came to winter clothing, the important thing was keeping us all warm. Kids today have no idea what it is like to spend each and every daylight hour outside. We didn’t have electronic devices to keep us occupied. In fact, I don’t remember ever having a choice, as Mom would kick us out of the house every Saturday so she could clean. By the time we made it in, our hands and feet needed to be thawed out, and the radiators were the place to be.
In our home when I was young, the old steam radiators were in every room, and when it got cold outside these radiators were a great source of heat for a child. Dad built wooden tops on each radiator so we could sit on them without getting burnt. Wet gloves and hats laid over the heaters, too. I still remember how my hands and feet would hurt as the feeling came back with the warmth.
Sometimes I wonder if I am coddling my own children, letting them stay inside during the cold winter days. It seems like the more I do this, my kids get colds and sniffles even quicker. Looking back, my siblings and I rarely got sick, and when we did get an illness, we were back on our feet quickly. I enjoyed my time out doors. My imagination ran away with me as we played, and I never remember being cold until it was time to come in and warm up.
In our basement when I was a kid hung ten sets of ice skates. Many weekend days in winter, we would gather up those skates and hike a mile or so to the backwaters of the Mississippi River, strap on those skates, and spend all day on the frozen ice. The older kids could usually get a small fire going, to warm our toes now and then. As the sun disappeared, we would take the skates off and head for home.
In today’s world, it is very easy to let our children be occupied by computers and electronic devices. Maybe it’s time to unplug. Maybe it’s time to kick those kids outside during the day and lock the doors behind them. Better yet, maybe we should join them for a day of outdoor fun.
I realize that this is the computer age, and I know that electronics will be not only my children’s passion, but more than likely their means of income. So I must weigh these things with my ways of old, because chances are some day my children will need to know my way of life. Sometimes, in life, you have to get your hands cold to appreciate the warmth. Sometimes, in life, you have to wear socks on your hands to appreciate gloves. And sometimes, you have to wear hand-me-downs to appreciate new clothes. I want my children to be prepared and to take nothing for granted, so I walk the line between yesterday and tomorrow very carefully.