Facing 10 days in a row of my husband working means fending for myself against the likes of my children. You know you have hit a new phase of life when your kids legitimately scare you and you imagine hiding from them for realsies, because you know what they need from you is likely going to kill you. Parenting in the winter is a different kind of hell than parenting in the summer. It’s something that should offer support groups and safe words for when you are at your wits end. As a general rule, I do not like to be cold, so the winter offers challenges that I am not always up for.
Today my daughter foamed at the mouth when she learned that the canal in our glorious city is open. Skating! Can we go skating? I neeeeeed to go skating! You said we could go skating when the Ottawa River opened! It’s not the Ottawa River. Fine, the Ottawa Canal, you said it, you said we could go! Much like a hostage situation, I had no choice, and I didn’t want to make her mad. She can be unpredictable when she’s mad. I looked at the clock, did some quick nap math, and decided that we had a small window of opportunity to head to the canal and do the traditional winter fuck outdoor skate thing.
You know what the best part is about going skating on the canal with two kids? Nothing. I don’t care who posts fun pictures of themselves with their kids on Facebook, I don’t buy it. It’s hard as fuck and yes, I’m swearing in my blog today. We have to drive closer to the canal because having grown up doing this as a kid, I know that at the end, there will be tears and signs of frostbite, so it’s imperative that we get the fuck out of there when the time comes. But driving means dressing the baby in sweater layers for the car ride and putting on his honking snow suit on the side of the road so he will be warm in the stroller. Driving means finding parking, which means likely having to walk anyway so that’s what car dumb means. You get a car, you get dumb. Now I don’t have skates. I don’t care for skating and I refuse to spend money on skates. The baby can barely move in his huge snowsuit so here we are, bundling and unbundling and peeing and rebundling all so that my daughter can skate while me and the baby walk behind her. Talk about low status. But you put on your stupid parenting hat and you do it.
You know, even when it’s good, it’s bad. Yes, I had a moment when I felt like the world was a tiny bit okay because a stranger offered to help me and the stroller down the stairs. Yes, I had a moment of feeling grateful that the sun was shining and it wasn’t freezing. But I’m not fooled. I know that in about 30 minutes the whining will begin, the toes will ache and that’s not even including my stress that the baby won’t stay docile, but will scream or be too cold, so I snap with my awful mom voice “When I say it’s time to leave, I don’t want to hear one single word of protest. We leave. Do you understand?” Oh mom, you’re so fun.
So my daughter skates. I walk. The baby strolls. My black heart experiences a tiny bit of remorse for being so impatient, when I see my daughter smiling and laughing even though I’m shooting her death glares. The innocence of childhood. She seems to barely notice my foul mood and I think it’s probably a survival instinct. Children must have a way of blocking out their shitty parents’ behaviour in order to enjoy life a bit. We make it to the fence, the barricade that means we have to turn back. I’m about to tip my hat off to myself for not insisting we turn around sooner, but then we change directions, and it becomes clear why the skate/walk there was manageable. Now the wind is slapping us in the face and what seemed like decent weather was actually just shoving us along making the skate/walk seem nice and now we have to walk the 3km against the wind. Any minute now.
One too many drops to the knee, that whole stupid helmet thing means her ears are freezing cold, and the baby has had enough. She wants to stop. Nope. Nope. Not stopping. Now you skate goddamnit. My face is frozen into a permanent scowl and my once strong stride has become slippery and shuffled. It’s now that I notice all the people. Of course I notice them because they’re all skating toward me, with the wind, and they don’t know what’s coming. I see the 12 year old girls in matching coats. Skate clubs. I see the older couple in stride unison. The speed skaters that truly make the rest of us look like fucking idiots. I see the confident woman skating forward while her confident boyfriend skates backwards and I feel sort of aroused. I see the university guys in their hockey gear and sunglasses and I kind of hate them but I also really love them. I see the token Asian tourist, who have skates on, but lets be serious, aren’t skating. I see the functional skaters, the ones with those tiny backpacks on that are definitely filled with bottles of water and solar blankets or something and they are literally skating from one side of the city to the other as transportation. I see the families. I see the singletons. I see the paramedics. I even see the grouchy mom, pushing a stroller and every now and then giving her daughter a thumbs up when she gets back up from a fall, but is really just doing it so she won’t have to head over there and coddle the sore knee because it’s so fucking cold now and we just have to power through.
By the time we get off the canal, lifting the stroller up the stairs on my own because the world is not so okay anymore, my daughter is crying because her ears are so cold and the baby is screaming because it’s nap time. Now we undress him so he’ll fit into the carseat but I don’t take off his snow pants so I drive home with him unbuckled, and I hear the whimpering of my daughter in the back who between breaths asks if she can have a bath when we get home, and I know this is just the way it will be forever. It will always be hard. But we did it. We did it and we get to say we did it. But lets not pretend it isn’t the hardest fucking thing in the world.