5 ways to make the most of a rainy day with children

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster ( his “Brown Mom” wife), and their 3-year-old daughter Viva, who is always singing in the rain, laughing at clouds and getting her socks wet.

Yesterday,  my 3-year-old and I were at the new Edgewater Whole Foods when the deluge struck, flooding the streets, setting off the fire alarm at the store, setting off tornado sirens and making our short walk home a test for our waterproof stroller and a test of Daddy’s ability to not freeze to death in a soaking wet Pac-Man T-shirt. (My Pac-Man fever unfortunately did not raise my core body temperature.)

Getting soaked and bailing out the basement was not our plan for the afternoon — we were contemplating the beach or the zoo — but Mother Nature had other plans for us. Looking ahead, it seems like it’ll be raining most of this week, too. We have not yet begun to be disappointed by the weather.

Before I had a kid — and even afterwards, for those first couple of years when she was just a blob — I never really even noticed the weather. Unless it was some outlying catastrophic weather event, like a tornado or a snowpocalypse or a lavageddon or something, nothing changed.

Most grown-up activities — drinking, eating, sex, shopping, drinking while eating, sex while shopping, resume updating, personal grooming, identity theft, wallowing in existential despair, etc., etc., etc. — are the same rain or shine. Kid stuff, however — parks, ball, chalk art, riding on things with wheels, skinning your knees, poking at dead things with sticks — really need Mr. Sun to cooperate.

I’m sure you’d like to just spend the summer relaxing in a chaise lounge with a craft Saison while fantasizing about kissing Lord Stanley’s cup. (Don’t kiss that thing, by the way, I hear people pee in it, like, ALL the time.) But if you have kids, you simply must go outside.

So what to do this week as the rain comes, and your kids run and hide their heads? Try these sure-fire rainy day activities:

1. Bail out your basement with the family.

Do you have a basement? A garden apartment? A storage space? Odds are, it’s going to be water-logged this week. So grab some buckets, and see how many photographs, wedding dresses and Christmas decorations you’ll need to throw away. This is a great way for kids to not only build upper body strength but also to learn that material things are fleeting and ephemeral. Note: Turn off the breaker first.

2. Get booster shots.

Did you just bail our your basement? You know that water you stood in? Get thee to a doctor before the diarrhea and tetanus set in! Teach the kids that doctors are friendly, medicine is our friend, and cholera and hepatitis are NO ONE’S FRIENDS.

3. Play “throwback to winter.”

Who doesn’t love retro stuff? It’s hip; it’s cool. “Then” is so “now.” Turn the clock back to March, and do whatever you did then. Bake some cookies, watch those episodes of Friendship is Magic you haven’t seen in weeks, jump on the couch, and complain loudly that you can’t go outside. It’s just like winter again!

4. Laugh at the suffering a gentle shower can cause.

Gather in front of the picture window, and watch the circle of life with your children. See the raindrops rippling across the puddles, the birds hiding in the trees, the squirrels running for cover, the pizza guys desperately hating their jobs. Watch your condescending neighbor who won’t stop telling your to trim your tree branches as his umbrella turns inside out and his laptop bag soaks through.

See the worm corpses piling up on the sidewalk, and count the parking tickets on that clunker someone abandoned on your street as they soak through and melt in an orange streak to the ground. Your neighborhood in the rain can seem like a scene from Bambi, except with more Denver boots and spilled boxes of Thai food. Don’t let romantic moments like that escape your family’s attention.

5. Go to places that require sun, and enjoy the lack of crowds.

Water parks and water slides are usually the worst return on investment in the world. You wait in line for an hour in the burning sun and then fall down wet fiberglass for 10 seconds. But if you can find a water slide when the weather is threatening, but before the lightning closes the joint, your investment just got way better.

This can also be true of crowded parks, crowded al fresco brunch spots and even the zoo. Sure, you have to stay inside the animal houses while choking on the scent of acrid urine and squinting at bats and spider monkeys in the darkness, but at least the school groups and big families with strollers are gone!

I hope this list aids you this week and that the last days of spring keep you stuck in the houses with your sugared-up, stir-crazy progeny. And if you can’t stand it anymore, remember the quote from ’90s goth action classic, The Crow, “It can’t rain all the time,” and don’t forget that blazing Chicago summer heat and drought are just around the corner!

You can CALL the White Dads now on their hotline:  (347) 766-3866. Leave a message or a question they can play on the podcast!

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