Raising kids in Alaska makes them appreciate the sunrise

Here’s what happens when you take your kids out of Alaska while they’re growing up.  They have no concept of what real life is all about.  If you bring your kids to a place like San Diego, they grow up thinking that life is all sunshine and 72-degree weather with blue skies and calm seas.

So when they get married and their new husband is stationed in Hawaii, they don’t understand why they aren’t getting a lot of sympathy when they call to complain about being bored in Paradise because it’s raining.  They have obviously grown up with unrealistic expectations of what the world should be like and think others feel the same way.

Now if this same child had been raised in Alaska, she would have been pathetically grateful that it was above 30 degrees in March and there was no ice to navigate and no thaw happening that made the world look as though the second flood was approaching. Just the idea that a day could be cloudy AND warm would be such an amazing concept, that her mind would constantly be occupied with trying to grasp that idea thus excluding any possibility of boredom.

Instead of complaining about the rain, an Alaskan kid would be out walking in it, reveling in the fact that it was wet but not icy, rainy but not bone chilling.

When I first came to Alaska many, many, many decades ago, I was surprised at the fact that Alaskans viewed Hawaii about the same way my family from Philadelphia viewed the Jersey shore. The shore was where you went for sunshine and fresh air and, if you were very lucky, the summer home you bought there was eventually converted into your retirement home.

In Alaska, I found out, people thought of Hawaii that way.  Going to Hawaii for a break from the winter darkness and cold was seen as just what you had to do – just like my uncles had to bring their wives and families to the shore for the summer.  I was amazed at the number of people in Barrow who were paying on a condo or home in Hawaii.  Walking down the streets of Honolulu, you were apt to run into as many Alaskans you knew as you would walking through the 5th Avenue Mall.

It’s not that most Alaskans don’t love snow and ice and all the fun things you can do in this climate.  It’s just that by the time you are staring at a snowstorm in April, your normally balanced sense of life in this great land starts to fray around the edges.  You find yourself walking out on your deck every day to check and see if there are any buds starting to form on the branches of your trees. You brush away the snow and look longingly at every bump on the branch thinking that maybe that’s a bud.  You wonder if it’s too early to get the patio furniture out of the shed. You realize it is when the snow is still so high you can’t get the door opened.

Kids raised in places like California have never seen their parents stomping through four foot of snow trying to outline their garden in the yard so they can start planning the summer harvest.  It gives these kids a whole new perspective on just what kind of mental health stock they come from.

So we really are doing our children a favor by raising them in a state in which even a daily sunrise can’t be taken for granted.  Keep telling them that no matter how incredulous the looks are that you will get.  Stick to your guns and eventually they may forgive you for telling them that living in Hawaii would be bad for their skin because of all the sunshine they would encounter.

Of course the key to doing this is to do it with a straight face. If you start to break down and sob in February as you try to convince them they wouldn’t like Hawaii, they may get suspicious. And if they find you in your closet fondling your bathing suit in March – well, you just may not be as convincing as you would otherwise be when you tell them that cold and dark preserve our bodies and skin much better so that we will live longer, if not necessarily happier, lives.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have a flowerbed to find in my yard.