Parenting: As Unpredictable As Our Kids

girl enjoying snow

How one couple learned that parenting still held surprises.

My eldest son was born into a snowstorm and, over the next nine weeks, 17 more storms hit our area of New Jersey.

On a good day, it was wonderful. We stayed in and established a routine. Every afternoon following his nap—always precisely three hours—I'd hold him near the front window and talk about the snow.

But on a colicky day, it was torture. Routine? Ha. Nothing worked. I spent hours pacing a drafty house with a squirming, unhappy, bawling, inconsolable baby.

My husband found the one thing that seemed to calm him: stepping out the back door. As the cold air hit my child, as the snow fell on his blotched cheeks, he quieted, relaxed.

The weather lifted and so did our baby's gastric discomfort, but two things never changed: our son's discomfort with any deviation from routine, and a lingering fascination with rapidly changing temperatures and a good snowstorm.

Coincidence? Maybe.

We have an old video of this child at around age 4, empty paper towel roll in hand, standing before a four foot snow drift, babbling about the snow accumulation, signing off, "And dat's da whever report." And another of him, at age 8, gesticulating before a map, discussing cold fronts and wind chills. Over the years, we were amused by this, amazed. Here was a kid who couldn't tolerate a three-minute delay in our school morning routine, but when a severe windstorm meant postponing a party for 20 classmates, instead of a meltdown, he sat glued to the Weather Channel. We worried when a rainstorm washed out his team's championship baseball game but, instead of complaining, he shrugged, set out a homemade rain measuring device and clicked between three weather websites.

Last summer, at age 16, he lobbied to spend a week at Weather Camp at a major university. One look at the description and schedule sent off alarm bells: a roommate he'd never met, an unfamiliar campus, meals in different locations, limited calls and texts home. How, my husband and I wondered, would our creature of routine fare?

Is it okay to say, without sounding way too weather-geeky, that he handled it like a calm, sunny day? I Feel Thankful For My Sons

Now my husband and I are amending our ideas of what this otherwise rigidly predictable child might one day do. For years, Frank and I worried that his inflexibility might limit his choices. Now I wonder if his fascination with the weather, this head-on grappling with the unpredictability of the world itself, is more than just a cool interest: maybe it's his way of making sense of everything else. 

Last weekend, a nor'easter blew in with 26.6 inches of snow, and this kid who once refused to try pizza from a new place grabbed his little brother and together they shot and uploaded videos to the Weather Channel website. When college talk began a few months ago, the kid who I predicted would want to remain close to home started researching schools in four different states, because they offer top meteorology programs.

My husband is less surprised than I am. So is that little brother of his, who is our family's resident lobbyist for change—in everything, every day. When It Comes To Parenting, Does One Size Fit All?

But that's another story.

Parenthood: as unpredictable as the kids we're dealt.