It is in February when the breaking point is reached

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Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014 6:00 am

If I could edit the calendar, the two months I’d do away with are August and February.

August, as I’ve groused about before, isn’t a great month. The summer has really overstayed its welcome by then. The kids are getting antsy because the days of endless leisure have started to lose their appeal. They are ready for new challenges by August but don’t want to say that out loud yet because we might give them new challenges.

But I could be OK with August if we could just get rid of February. Winter, particularly this alternately blizzardy and bitterly cold winter, has overstayed its welcome. Sledding grows ever less fun when it has become the only thing you can do outside — and even then you can only be out there for 30 minutes at a time lest your nose freeze right off.

The eldest child is particularly sensitive to cold. I have my suspicions that she imprinted on one of our cats early in her life and models her behavior after them.

Once the temperature drops below 50, the Tween moves onto the heating vent in the kitchen, which makes everyday chores like cooking dinner tedious because she’s right in front of the pantry and needs to be asked to move every 30 seconds. She’ll bring a book or her Kindle and spend hours on the vent; frequently, she also has a blanket over her.

Once winter really gets going and we deign to turn it on, she’s parked inches from the pellet stove. This winter, she commandeered a spare office chair to put right in front of the stove so that she can better soak up its fiery goodness.

For the first few weeks of this, I made her put her throne back where it came from every night. She wore me down, though. And, now, in February, I no longer care that all of that heat is being absorbed by one member of the household who is always basking in front of it.

Admittedly, we live in an old house, which has its fair share of drafts and other heating quirks. The Tween swears her room is the coldest in the house — it isn’t, by the way, and that honor belongs to her brother, who doesn’t seem to care — and she’ll sleep in her coat and a knitted hat on particularly brisk nights.

For the record and so we are not accused of abuse, it’s not that cold in the house. We’re not keeping the heat at Dickensian levels and making them beg for lumps of coal. It’s usually 68 degrees in here, which seems reasonable. To us, that is.

Regardless, the sight of our oldest child draped in front of the pellet stove, where she promptly melts so much that she fails to respond to her own name and loses the ability to do anything but lounge in front of the pellet stove, reaches its peak in February. Which is, sadly, exactly when I start to be at the height of my annual irritation by the amount of inertia that needs to be overcome to get the kids to do their chores.

And because February is when we are trapped in the house, it is when I become even more fixated on all of the chores that haven’t been done. Suddenly, I can see every cobweb and crumb. The windows look extra filthy when everything outside of them is white. It’s when I have mopped up muddy bootprints more times per day than Elizabeth Taylor changed husbands, despite continuously reminding all members of the household to take their dang boots off before stepping on the kitchen floor.

It’s when, in short, I start to lose it a little bit.

It’s also when the snow days start, which only ratchets up the losing it.

Getting to the President’s Week break was an endurance test. This year, I only just made it.

You’d think that a break week would only intensify the cabin fever and extreme family bonding. You’d be right if the kids were still here.

Instead, because their localish grandparents are kind, the kids are off in a far away Flour City having big time adventures. Or, if not adventures, at least slumping over the heating vent in someone else’s house. Which is good enough right now. 

Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of “Sweater Quest.” Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.