As we hit the 80-degree mark here in northern Indiana, I’m quite certain — finally — that we’ve completed the winter of our discontent. We spent a preposterous amount of time being cooped up during a record-setting winter. “Brutal” doesn’t come close to describing those long months. And the weather was awful, too.
While my beautiful and devout wife and I love our children dearly — and I don’t think we’re alone on this next part — if we had to hear them sing a song from “Frozen” one more time, we would have snapped. (Fine, maybe not the one where the snowman sings about summer; it’s catchy and clever.)
But we — and, miraculously, they — have made it to spring, and we have gone from never setting foot outside to never setting foot inside. And, unfortunately, I’m not talking about our evenings being spent taking leisurely walks or bike rides around the park. I’m talking about a season-long impression of metal bleachers in my backside; of learning, forgetting and learning again the names of teammates and parents; of losing our dog — our 95-pound dog — in the jungle-like backyard that has yet to be mowed; of snack schedules and team photos and doling out dollar after dollar for the concession stand and “dad, can you find my water bottle?”
Between piano lessons, track practices, track meets, softball practices, softball games, T-ball games and Cub Scout hikes, we have essentially scratched off the hours of 4:30 to 8:30 every weekday evening. And, I’m only assuming here, we don’t even have it that bad; we’ve only got three kids. How some of these pew-filling families manage their schedules, I can only assume, is either an act of God or they’ve somehow figured out teleportation. (If it’s teleportation, please get in touch.)
I wonder, though: Certainly it hasn’t always been this way. As a kid, my brother, sister and I were involved in things, but I don’t remember, truly, being gone all night every night; maybe it’s revisionist history. Maybe the 1980s were the twilight of the age where kids could safely ride their bikes to wherever they needed to be. Maybe there weren’t dance camps, band camps, cheerleading camps, etc.
Of course, we only have ourselves to blame. We could have told them no, but we’re suckers who know the joys of seeing our 5-year-old beam with pride while standing at first base underneath his Darth Vader-sized helmet, or watching our 8-year-old run ahead without a care in the world on a hike through the woods, or being amazed as our fifth-grader stuns the audience with her composure and ability at the piano one night and runs past eighth-graders on the track the next.
These outweigh having to eat in the car on the way there and saying bedtime prayers in the car on the way back (because, odds are, the littlest is falling asleep). They outweigh 9 p.m. baths, 9:30 snacks and 10:00 bedtimes. Whether they outweigh cranky monsters in the morning depends on the day.
But we get up and do it all over again, trying to keep our complaining to a minimum because we know it could be worse; they could be trapped by the cold outside while singing “Do you want to build a snowman?” for the millionth time.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.