Motherhood, Travel

A Brief Reprieve

We’ve been in a deep cold snap for what feels like years. Calgary is no stranger to cold weather but it does feel rare to be so cold for so long, without a warm-weather chinook to give us a break, even just for a few days.

The temperatures have consistently hovered around -27 C (sometimes feeling like -36 C with windchill) and we received a record-breaking snowfall over the course of two days last week. Life around these parts has been made up of endless snow shovelling; air so cold it takes your breath away; toques and scarves and mitts and sweaters. Olive’s school doesn’t let the kids play outside when it’s below -15 C and we’ve been driving to school rather than walking in the frigid temperatures.

All of this has added up to both of us feeling stir crazy. Late last week found me pacing my house like a caged animal, eager for fresh air, sunlight, and a chance to stretch my legs. So on Friday when I picked Olive up from kindergarten we didn’t go home – instead, we headed to a little mountain town called Canmore about an hour away. I’d planned the whole thing as a surprise, booked a hotel with a pool and a waterslide  – hoping that a few days out of the city would be just what we needed.

And you know, it was nice to get out. Swimming was fantastic, we spent hours in the pool the first day, wandered around town and had a delicious dinner, I let Olive go nuts at a candy store and jump on the hotel bed to her heart’s content. The next day we went on two little hikes with lunch in between. We wandered around the town and participated in the Hometown Hockey festival they were hosting. We capped off our trip with a long soak at the Banff hot springs.

It was a lovely weekend, but it was also a long one. It was still cold as all hell, Olive commemorated our first hike with a massive meltdown about how her feet were cold and sore (she refused to wear socks that morning. I’m a fan of logical consequences where possible, so the conversation went like this:

Me: Olive, you’re going to need to wear socks this morning, we’ll be hiking in deep snow.
Olive: I don’t like wearing socks.
Me: I know, but your feet are going to get really cold and if snow gets in your boots it’s going to feel really unpleasant.
Olive: I’m not wearing them.
Me: OK. Suit yourself, I’ll bring them in case you change your mind, which I think you will.

**Five minutes into the hike**

My feet are wet and cold and my heel really hurts!!
Me: [endless internal swearing] Huh. So weird. Would you like to put your socks on?
Olive: No!
Me: Why is this my life?

There were other moments of completely illogical interactions, too. Like when her hot chocolate was too hot, but she didn’t want to take the lid off to cool it down because then it would get too cold. So instead she just sipped it every few minutes and then got upset because it was still scalding and somehow hadn’t yet magically cooled down in the cup designed specifically to keep it hot. Frustration because I wouldn’t let her buy a “diamond” in a storefront the size of her fist, which was actually just a display decoration. Anger when I told her it wasn’t a real diamond. Arguments about how it WAS a real diamond and I was wrong.

Then I had this moment where I realized that I was standing on a sidewalk in -15 C weather having repetitive conversations about too-hot hot chocolate and getting all worked up about fake diamonds, saying, “Olive, it’s NOT a real diamond! I am thirty-four years old and while there are many things in this world that I do not know (like why you won’t wear SOCKS, for one) believe me, I know this! If that was a real diamond it would be worth billions of dollars and have armed guards protecting it in a vault somewhere. Not sitting in a storefront surrounded by eight other similarly ginormous diamonds!”

I heard myself saying this and it was like, ugh. Seriously? Is this happening? And so, while the mini-vacation was nice, it was also (as most moms know) mostly just paying hundreds of dollars to be a mom in a different location. Same struggles, same joys.

Olive has always been (and likely always will be) wildly headstrong about clothing. She’s always been stubbornly opinionated and passionately attached to her views. She always saves her most challenging behaviour for me (as most children do with the person they’re most comfortable with). This doesn’t change just because she’s been whisked on a surprise weekend getaway.

But, she has also always been (and likely always will be) an eager and adventurous eater – during our trip alone she scarfed down a bagel with lox and cream cheese, most of my salads, and some of the most delicious guacamole I’ve tasted. She’s also always displayed the most inspiring appreciation and fascination for the world around her – every massive drift of snow needs to be tasted and climbed, every icicle broken off, every stick marvelled at and every stone pocketed to add to her collections. I hope this wonder will last well into adulthood. We lose it too soon, I think.

Trips – small or large – hold an important lesson for us parents, I think. About expectations and how to manage them. About how to recognize that the powerful, memorable moments will happen – they just won’t happen when you think they will.

Olive didn’t find herself struck speechless by the beauty of the hike we were on, as I had hoped she would be. She didn’t sit quietly and savour her free hot chocolate while reflecting on how lucky she was (as I found myself doing).

She did, however, laugh so hard she almost choked, as I chased her around and around in the pool pretending to be a shark.  She found more joy in jumping on our hotel bed than I ever thought possible. She was awed by the giant beaver and eagle mascots walking around the hockey festival, and overjoyed at how many dogs she got to pet in the village- squealing with delight at each one that wore boots or a sweater. She was awestruck that the hotel provided a free pen and notepad and pretended to be a detective for our entire dinner, making meticulous notes about a nefarious criminal we were tracking named Marco.

When we talk about the hot springs she doesn’t marvel at the experience of soaking in a centuries-old natural spring while snowflakes landed on her nose and the cold created icicles out of her wet hair. Instead, she talks about the steam. She remembers with wonder how it was so steamy and foggy that we almost couldn’t see each other. How she’s never seen something so steamy.

Today, the cold snap ended. It’s +7 C as I write this. I left the house without wearing a coat this morning – the feeling of air on my skin felt delicious. I didn’t have to scrape my car or warm it up before driving. And when I pick Olive up from kindergarten in fifteen minutes we’ll spend as long as she wants at the playground, her racing around the jungle gym and attempting the monkey bars, me turning my face toward the sun and soaking up the warmth.

Ths afternoon I’ll fling open my windows and watch as slow ly,everything stale and stir-crazy escapes.

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  • Reply Stephanie February 19, 2018 at 7:00 PM

    You write beautifully about everyday things. Thank you!
    And your insights make me feel less alone in the throes of parental monotony. I’ll be a mom in a different location in a few weeks and while I’m psyched to be warm, I’m less eager to navigate a different sleep situation, new foods, a rental car, and a general lack of routine.

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville February 21, 2018 at 11:18 PM

      The monotony is real! Sometimes it really is worth getting out ofvtowno just to break thingstup a little! I hope your trip goes well and you get somestrue downtime!

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