Who isn’t feeling a touch of cabin fever as the temperatures stay frigid, the wind chill ups the ante, and the previously lovely snow cover has become hard, crusty and slippery.
After the bright lights and tinsel, the anticipation, the planning and preparations, the presents, the company, the food, the traveling, the fun and the commotion – it’s January.
Many people do experience a let-down feeling at this time of year. And especially parents with young children often find themselves wondering how to fill these long winter days at home.
That’s one of the reasons I was so mesmerized by a powerful book I received for Christmas called ROOM, a novel by Emma Donoghue. It’s about a young woman who was kidnapped as a college student, hidden and held hostage in an 11 x11 foot underground room. In the story, she is a young mom of 25 with a 5-year-old son living in the world they call Room.
For this young 5-year-old, his mom has created a world focused on his growing needs. She eeked out every ounce of imagination, creativity, playfulness, resourcefulness, instruction, spirituality, emotion and love that was available to her and within her. To her son, Room was the only world he knew.
What this mom had to work with was her wits and using the little resources they had. She relied on routines and schedules offerring a sense of security and predictability to his day. TV was available but amazingly, even under their circumstances, she limited his screen time.
Which brings us back to cabin fever in the real world, our world. When there are days that we feel “trapped” or the hours seem to loom ahead – imagine.
What is there to provide?
Simplicity is often the answer.
The holiday toys may have lost their luster. But a box? Never. Or making some play dough? Playing with mom’s scarves, making jello, pouring rice in a roasting pan or drawing letters and pictures with cornmeal on a cookie sheet? Or creating a “hunt” – who said Easter eggs were only for spring time? (they don’t even need to be filled, unless you ambitiously stick in a note or a treasure here and there).
Sharing a lap and reading can bring peace to everyone, in any situation, especially if we, as parents, allow ourselves to give in and “take” the time – generously.
Some of my most precious days as a mom of a young child at home was when we were forced to be in slow motion – when we did what the spirit moved us to do – because we needed to – whether it was weather related, a cold, or other situation where it was necessary to draw on our reserves to fill the hours. And it was by giving in and letting go of the “should be doings” that allowed the day to blossom into a special one storing warm memories.
So just as you have the First Aid supplies for any fever or flu your child might catch, be so prepared for the possibility of cabin fever in your family.
Make a mental list of what you can draw from. Think back to your own passions as a child. What simple thing did you do that you cherished? Make sure there’s always a stack of new books (library’s great) to be read. There’s always a new idea to act out, extend, or pretend from a good story.
Think a speedy recovery from cabin fever.