by Molly Khan
This time of year, with the sun at its lowest and shortest course through the sky, life with children becomes its most difficult for me. Here in Nebraska, things get cold and windy, not the best conditions for sending older kids outside to burn off their energy all afternoon – and I’m even wary of taking the littlest ones out for a walk. The holidays are over, cabin fever is setting in, and the lack of sunlight is getting to everybody: the winter blues.
I find that the best way to beat them is to acknowledge the good changes that are taking place. The sun is rising earlier and earlier every day, giving us more light. Animals like squirrels and bunnies come out during the warmest part of the day to shore up their winter stashes. If we, as a family, make time to mark the good changes, it helps everyone feel a bit better about the winter.
One way we do this is to do modified Sun Salutations, a yoga pose, every morning. For a basic primer, you can check out this youtube video. Since my children are still pretty little, we work very informally, doing three repetitions of the pose. Between each repetition, we recite a short prayer I wrote for these lengthening winter days. It addresses the Goddess Sunne, the Anglo-Saxon deity who steered the sun through the sky, but it can be easily modified to address any sun God or Goddess or the Sun itself.
Hail Sunne the flaming sun!
Stay with us longer today,
and longer the next.
Show us your light and warmth.
This doesn’t have to be done at sunrise or any specific time; though I do find it helpful to gather everyone around sometime before noon – both because the light tends to be brighter and shining in our eastern windows around that time, and also because that’s when everyone is awake! My kindergartener is having a great time running to check the clock when she sees the whole sun, so excited to see it coming earlier and earlier every day. Her measurements aren’t always accurate, which can be hard, but after a few weeks the trend is obvious; for older children it might be even more fun.
Since this is the time of year we get the most snow sitting on the ground in Nebraska, we also like to check the snow for footprints. Putting a bowl of birdseed on our porch after snowfall, there are usually so many fun footprints to see when we open the blinds the next morning. We’re lucky enough to have a large picture window leading to the porch, so even though going outside is sometimes not an option, we can still observe the marks and talk about the animals who visited us. My kindergartener and I like to sketch the footprints – badly, in my case, but it doesn’t matter – and then let the two little ones color them in. There are crafts and ideas aplenty across the internet if you do a search on keeping kids busy in the winter, but my favorite piece of advice is to let them continue observing nature just as they would in warmer months. Open the blinds, and let them look outside. Point out interesting seasonal variations they might not notice. Don’t be too concerned about fingerprints on the windows- trust me, they always wash off later!
Molly Khan is a writer, student, and mother of three from the Midwest prairie. She is a founding member and liturgist for Prairie Shadow Protogrove, ADF. She writes about her joys and struggles as a mother and a Heathen Druid, as well as her experiences raising children in an interfaith household at thepagangrove.blogspot.com.