It’s so dang hot around here these days. I live in southeastern Virginia, right on the Chesapeake Bay, and the heat and humidity are stifling. Every time I step outside, I feel like I’ve walked into a combination sauna/lava pit. I don’t go for a morning jog anymore. Instead I swim, pushing the jog stroller ahead of me as I struggle to doggie paddle my way through the neighborhood. The heat waves only add to the illusion that I’m underwater as they shimmer up from the sidewalk like streamers of seaweed. It’s been like this since June, 106 degrees in the shade and so humid I could drown. Therefore it should come as no surprise to me that all the moms in my mommies group have decided to stay indoors this summer.
And yet it does.
I’m so damned annoyed about this too. Every one of these moms seems determined to hibernate in their air-conditioned houses until October. This mommies group posts play dates on a Yahoo group and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen outdoor play dates posted and then cancelled this summer. I’ve also shown up to a couple of play dates at parks and playgrounds only to discover Cassie and I were the only ones who decided to brave the heat. How fun is that, I ask you?
Keep in mind these are the same moms who complained all winter long that they couldn’t take little Johnny and darling Susie out to the park because of the winter weather – rain, sleet, snow, chilly temperatures, etc. From October to May, this group met at the local mall to let the kids run amok at an indoor play area, then sat and complained about how they had no place else to take the kids. With all the grousing going on about bad weather and how folks were going stir crazy, I had this delusion that come summer we’d all be outside running around with our kids. No such luck.
We had about a month, May to be exact, where the moms group made the rounds of all the playgrounds in the area. Then June arrived with its usual heat wave and that was the end of that. Suddenly, the mommies retreated to the great indoors – Chuck E. Cheese, the mall, any place with AC. To be honest, Cassie and I don’t spend a lot of time with the moms group, so I can only complain but so much. My work and karate schedule allow us to make it to one play date every other week. Still, I had looked forward to getting Cassie outside this summer with other kids we knew. Instead, we’ve ended up playing by ourselves or with the kids of parents we’ve never met before and will probably never see again (even though I do exchange e-mail addresses with the other moms I meet, I can’t seem to hook up with them again). It’s left me feeling isolated and frustrated to no end, wondering frantically if the only way Cassie will ever have any friends is if we hole up inside with all the other moms and turn into a couple of thermophobic shut-ins who bitch about how it’s too hot to go out and play. I swear, the only other women I’ve heard of who spent that much time locked inside lived in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule.
There have been two exceptions to our lack of playmates this summer. The first was Maison, whom Cassie met in her weekly Toddler Tales group. Maison’s mom, Crystal, and I hit if off really well and the girls spent a lot of time together this summer, right up until Crystal and her family transferred to Alaska in July (and if you’re reading this Crystal, I hope you know how much we miss you guys!). While Maison and Crystal were here, we made it to the beach, the zoo, the local botanical gardens, and more than a few playgrounds. Plenty of sun and fun all around!
The other exception is a six-year-old girl named Maddy whose grandmother lives in our neighborhood. Every time we’ve hit the neighborhood pool this summer, Maddy and her grandmother have been there. Due to a lack of other six-year-olds at the pool, Maddy and Cassie hung out together, giving Cassie at least a semi-regular playmate the last two months. Cassie’s enjoyed playing with a ‘big girl’ and Maddy’s been so nice to her. Unfortunately, come September Maddy heads off to school and the girls won’t be seeing each other anymore.
Thus leaving Cassie stuck with only me for a playmate again. I’ve tried setting up play dates with other moms, really I have. My best friend Mary has a son the same age as Cassie, but Mary works and her son goes to daycare so we only get to see them once every blue moon. There’s another mom down the street from us whose daughter is a year younger than Cassie. We’ve gone out with them once and had a great time, but the daughter has severe dairy and peanut allergies so that makes it a challenge to get the girls together. We can’t go any place that serves food without risking a trip to the emergency room.
So I keep going back to the mommies group, hoping beyond hope that someone will want to come outside and play. I set up a picnic and play date last week at a local playground. I made sure to pick a shady place to meet and set the time for early in the day to beat the worst of the heat. Wouldn’t you know it, Cassie and I were the only ones who came to play? Later that day I got an e-mail from one of the other moms, telling me what I trooper I was for going outside at all that day. She and her son went out in their backyard to play but only lasted fifteen minutes before they started to melt. I just wanted to scream. Don’t these people understand that their kids need to get outside? There was a study published in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics that concluded that school age kids needed to get at least an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. To me, moderate to vigorous activity means outdoors, ‘cause I certainly don’t want my darling little yard ape screaming and racing around inside.
Granted, Cassie isn’t school age, and neither is any other kid in her playgroup, but when are these kids going to learn to play outside if they don’t start doing it now? My cousin Dave married a woman from Siberia. Their son isn’t even a year old yet but every day regardless of the weather, Dave’s wife completely undresses the kid and takes him outside. It’s a Siberian custom, apparently, the purpose of which is to condition the child to the extremes of the harsh Siberian weather. I can tell you already, this child is going to be physically fit all his life. If he can handle being outside naked in the height of summer or the depths of winter while he’s still an infant, he’ll have no problems being active as he gets older. And I really do believe this, because to me spending time outside goes hand in hand with being physically fit. Ask yourself, how many obese mommies do you see at playgrounds during the summer? Not many. Too bad I can only count on one hand the number of moms I’ve seen outside at all this summer.
In a few weeks, the heat wave in this area will break, and I’m sure that the mommies group will once again make the rounds of all the playgrounds in the area. Then October will come, bringing with it the rain, followed by the dank chill of November and the brittle cold that lasts from December until March. April will slowly ease us into spring, but from October until May I can almost guarantee you the mommies group will stay inside, complaining again about how they can’t get out. I don’t plan to hang around and listen to them though. Instead, Cassie and I will throw on our parkas, grab our umbrellas, and head outside, braving the cold and the rain in search of other moms and their kids who are just as crazy as we are. Wish us luck. I fear Admiral Peary had better odds of finding the North Pole.