Tonawanda News

January 7, 2013

Those long, dark, boring days of winter ... can be fun

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s this time of year that makes me even more aware of just how much energy my children have. 

Summers can be crazy ... but they have nothing on winter. The holidays are over. School is back in session. It gets dark early enough that playing outside doesn’t have a very big window on the weekdays. The “shiny” has worn off from the array of Christmas goodies. 

Bring on the boredom.

I have seen the boys bounce off the walls this time of year. Literally. They can get enough hang time that bouncing on the bed nearly sends them ricocheting off the ceiling as well. There are races around the (small) living room, and up and down the stairs (until stopped as a safety hazard). Under the table. Into the kitchen. Around and around. Back and forth.

All that energy that can be diffused in the summer by bike rides and tearing around the backyard and anywhere else? Confined most of the time to one small suburban house. It’s enough to make me want to hide in the bathroom with a book, listening with trepidation for the sound of a crash. 

After a while, this wears off. Then the whining begins. “I”m boooored. I waaaaant to do thiiiiisssss. I waaaannnaaa do thaaaat. There’s nothing to dooooo.”

Then the races start again. Then the whining. Then ...

Yes, January and February and March can be the longest time of the year. But at the same time, this can be when the really cool things happen. 

There’s something utterly amazing when you see your kids actually playing together. Not harrassing each other (poke, poke, POKE) or tolerating each other, or even just co-existing side by side, but playing together, cooperatively and with imagination. It’s not impossible to see it in summer, but there are so many options once the weather brightens that it doesn’t seem quite as valuable.

The boys were so quiet yesterday that I poked my head around the corner of Jim’s bedroom door to see what they were up, expecting some sort of trouble or that one or the other was asleep. Instead, I discovered that they’d dragged all of their toy firetrucks out and were playing some complicated game with them. All the sheets were pulled off the bed and mounded to portray mountains or something and both boys were ensconced on their stomachs, conversing quietly about what truck was going where and why and who was driving it and ...

I quietly withdrew. These are the moments when, as a parent, you just have to smile.

We’ve had huge and complicated wooden train tracks covering the living room, with lengthly trains pulling supplies to who knows where. We’ve had conversations with stuffed animals who apparently lead more interesting lives than we do. 

Jim is distinctly non-interested in all the art supplies I loved so much as a child, but Sam is now creating elaborate works of art that must be proudly displayed. Sam is not so interested in Jim’s beloved music, but Jimmy is getting better and better at actually picking out songs and musical motifs.

They both love to “help” bake ... and they’re even getting old enough to conceivably be of actual help measuring and rolling.

Then there’s the Keppeler spirit of competition. They’re starting to learn that video games are cool, even if they don’t understand why Daddy thinks an old Sega Genesis is better than a Wii. And the first time the entire family, even the youngest, sat down to play a card game was a triumph. It’s not pinochle ... yet ... but it will get there.

Soon enough, the long, dark days of Western New York winter will warm up and they’ll be on the run again. But for now, when the “thundering herd” gets on the move in our small house and the whining begins, I’m trying to remember that even during the coldest and snowiest days, that’s when you learn the most about each other. And that can be a good thing.

Sometimes you just have to look for it.

Jill Keppeler is writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at