January is a particular terror to anyone who lives where there are seasons and has small children. The promise and coziness of the holidays comes to a zombie-eyed conclusion at midnight on the 31st and then, we march forward into the abyss that is the first real month of winter.
I’m already filled with dread at the prospect – so here are five zany ways to make my least favorite time of year bearable, maybe even, dare I say it, fun:
Make the bath the beach
When it’s simply too cold to get to those swim lessons you idiotically signed your little ones up for back in balmy November, why not turn the bathtub into a tropical paradise?
Put on your swim suit or that pineapple-patterned halter dress, drop a straw in a glass of coconut seltzer, and play Loudon Wainwright’s “The Swimming Song” or Phyllis Dillon’s “Long Time No Nice Time.” Tell the kids not to burn their feet on the pretend sand that’s covering the floor of your bathroom and remind them that under that hot July sun (the light fixture over the tub), they’ll need sunglasses.
Wrap it up with popsicles for everyone and you might even forget for a minute that there are approximately one million days of cold weather to go.
Go to the opera
…on your couch. Put yourself and your children into whatever terribly fancy clothes or terribly fancy pajamas they choose, and then throw on coats and hats. You’ve got to get from the bedroom to the opera house and those tiny hands aren’t going to warm themselves!
Once everyone’s made it down the treacherously icy hallway and is seated, remind the audience that “The show is starting soon, shhhhh!” Play one of these classic arias, which may both bring your blood pressure down and warm your heart, if not your toes.
Since this particular opera house is not at full capacity, encourage everyone to pirouette as needed, play an invisible violin, or lip sync, with passion. At intermission, which might be five minutes in, everyone gets a chocolate truffle and milk with cinnamon on top and then, “EVERYBODY, SHHH! THE SHOW IS STARTING AGAIN.”
Turn the house inside out
You know what they say: If you can’t go to the forest, bring the forest to yourself.
I’m not sure anyone actually says that, but what I’m saying is, why not turn every room in your house (or, in my case, compact apartment) into a desert, forest, jungle, farm, mountain top, erupting volcano, etc.?
You’ve gone sledding twice this morning already and you’ve memorized, in their entirety, three episodes of Daniel Tiger. So, put on your pretend snowshoes and lead your children through the tundra that is your master bedroom. Watch out for that wild boar and whatever you do, nobody feed the snake in the linen basket.
The impossibly complex yet mundane indoor obstacle course
If you’re like my husband, nothing scares you more than the sight of a small child balancing on the arm of an upholstered piece of furniture several feet above an unforgiving hardwood floor.
He had the idea to create an unnecessarily complex yet mundane obstacle course to divert our daring child away from his unrelenting furniture-leaping efforts. I came home one afternoon to the following, “Now clap twice, get up from the elephant chair and crawl on your belly across the sofa. Nice! Now, grab the magazine, put it under the table, then run, yes, very good, and tap the dishwasher! Don’t forget to jump before you count to seven slowly, very slowly while patting the top of your head. Incredible!”
Our son was elated with himself and undeterred by the oddness of the whole production. By nap time, we were just as spent as we’d have been after traipsing around the playground on a lovely spring day (and, once the thought of a lovely spring day occurred to us, we rocked ourselves to sleep, chanting the mantra, “Groundhog day is coming,” over and over again).
Mayday! Mayday! It is STILL JANUARY. JANUARY IS STILL HAPPENING.
So, at last, it’s time to employ those dozen bananas buried in the depths of the freezer and bake until you’ve dirtied every last dish. Throw down some towels, drop those slippery defrosted banana slugs into bowls and encourage your little creatures to, you know, go bananas on them.
It’ll be very messy, but very joyous (a sensory wonderland, as the teachers say), not to mention very distracting, if you’d like to bake some banana muffins, banana bread, or vegan banana cookies without assistance from your renegade sous-chefs. Alternately, get your kids to stir, sift, and dump ingredients until there’s no tomorrow.
Winter is going nowhere and neither are you, so you better put your feet up, have another banana muffin, and don’t even think about cleaning up your desecrated kitchen until springtime.