I brought my newborn son home in a snowstorm, or more accurately, just as the blizzard was starting, flakes falling thick and fast as my husband navigated our vehicle at a crawl. Raising a child in hard, cold winters felt fated for me. I was raised in northern Minnesota and spent much of my adolescence wishing I lived somewhere warmer. Naturally the military sent us to some of the coldest locations available. First we were stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, experiencing some of the harshest weather in the world. Eight years later, the month we found out we were pregnant, we discovered we would be trading hot, dry Fort Hood for wet, snowy northern Fort Drum.
I knew I couldn’t fight it. Less than ideal weather would be a part of my story, and my son’s story, whether I liked it or not. So when I was eight months pregnant and the morning had begun to frost, but the snow hadn’t followed yet, I picked up the book, There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk. I agreed wholeheartedly with the Scandinavian belief in a nature-forward approach to raising happy, healthy kids, as well as accumulating the gear you need to do it properly, but I have to disagree with the author on one pivotal point.
There is such a thing as bad weather.
I’ve grown up in it in windy, freezing Minnesota, I’ve lived through it in dark, frigid Alaska, and I am still enduring it after a record amount of snowfall this winter in north New York and a record amount of rain the summer we moved here.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned? Even if the weather is bad, it’s important to get outside anyway.
From the first week of my son’s life, after the snowstorm had dropped over a foot of snow and the driveway had a firm, crunchy pack, we put our stroller with shocks to the test and took our bundled newborn for a walk. It was cold, bumpy, and I checked if he was breathing in his tiny snowsuit about a hundred times, but we did it.
14 months later and we still go outside every, single day.
As we welcome spring and days of inevitable rain, and I dread the thought of mud trekked through my house, I try to remind myself of the reasons why my family still plans to get outside:
- The health benefits of spending time outside, no matter the weather, are endless. Both mentally and physically. According to a 2019 study spending just two hours combined in nature each week was associated with better health and wellbeing.
- My son has developed an incredible tolerance for cold and rainy weather and is rarely the first one of us to ask to go back inside. Proper gear plays a big part here, but he’s often just as warm in layers from Wal-Mart as he is in layers from REI. I snagged this $25 rainsuit from Amazon a few weeks ago so we can enjoy the muddy, rainy spring.
- It’s become a part of our daily routine. He knows that after daycare pick up, we’re bundling up and going to play in the backyard, the driveway, or on a walk or hike. Sometimes it’s short and sweet, but other days he picks up his little toddler shovel, gets to work, and practically has to be coerced to come inside for dinner as the sun sets.
- I fall more in love with every place the military sends us when I spend time outside. I find the closest trails to walk the dog and baby whenever we move, and after enough trips, the trails start to feel like our very own. I know the biggest trees and the best view of the river, and how a freshly fallen snow makes these familiar sights look a little magical.
- I love nature and this beautiful earth of ours, and it feels like a responsibility to pass on that love and stewardship to my son. If he sees the way the leaves change in the fall or how it feels to squish his toes in mud after a fresh rain, maybe just maybe, he’ll feel more inclined to pick up a piece of trash he sees on a walk, or ask to plant a tree, or choose to get outside…no matter the weather.