Jan 24, 2009

On Cabin Fever and the Slow, Creeping Descent into Seasonal Madness

The brilliant orange setting sun in the accompanying photo is a deceitful center of the scene in my late afternoon backyard, as the arrival of yet another blast of Arctic air in Northwest Ohio sent temperatures diving back toward the single digits. This is one of the colder and snowier winters in recent memory, and the combination of the two means that I have spent an inordinate amount of time inside the house this winter.

Cabin fever is setting in.

My son's screamo songs and my daughter's Disney Channel programs each claw on my nerves like the talons of a vulture on a freshly-snared rabbit, and I am sure that my own idiosyncrasies are also a source of irritation to the other people living in my house. Of course, with wind chill readings well below zero many days, even a few minutes outside increases the risk of hypothermia, so trips outside are limited in duration. However, if cabin fever continues, I may have to trade numbed fingers and toes for some sanity.

Yesterday's brief foray above freezing was short-lived, and I unfortunately had to spend much of the day indoors. Naturally, today was a day that just had to be bitterly cold, since I had some free time. I did make it out of the house for a few hours with my wife and a couple of dogs, but I suspect if I could develop a statistical model of my outdoor activity this winter, I would find that the total hours outdoors must be about half of my normal level.

And as I returned to the house and saw my son dozing on the couch - the same young man whose late-night clunking around kept me tossing and turning until 2:30 am - the cooped-up resentments returned, and I struggled to resist grabbing a pot and a metal spoon to dish out a sonic payback to him.

Like I did this morning about 9:00, when the same night-owl man-child was sleeping on the same couch. Of course, after I woke him up with a clanging pot this morning, I felt guilty for acting in such a juvenile fashion. After all, I am the adult here, and I should set the example instead of perpetuating the malevolent cycle of sleep disruption.

Right. I really should have blocked my cell number and called his phone a couple of dozen times, a device that has this amazingly loud and screechy metal guitar noise. That way payback would be mine, and he would have no clue as to who the hell would call him a dozen times at the ungodly hour of 9:00 am on a Saturday.


mud_rake said...

I have no advice, Mike, as not much can sooth these times with teens, especially in the frozen Lake Plains.

Some day your house will seem awfully empty, children gone. I remember well the morning after my son was married. I passed by his empty room, in which he spent his entire life, and, as I turned away, I wiped a tear from my eye.

historymike said...

I hear the reminder that I will one day miss these years, mud-rake, but for the moment slep-deprivation from noisy teens prevents me from recognizing this advice.

Mad Jack said...

Back in the bad old days, before cell phones and cable TV...

The entire family went outside to work regardless of the weather. On the week ends I'd go out hunting with my neighbor and his hillbilly buddy, Red. Weather didn't matter. We'd walk 25 miles over farm land, stopping back at the car for lunch. I didn't realize it, but by the end of the winter I was harder and tougher (both mentally and physically) than many adults. I was only 12 years old, but I thought nothing of putting in a full day's work outside in below zero weather. Of course, we didn't know about wind chill back them, so we mostly froze to death - well, we must have, because we didn't know about wind chill, you see. We only knew that it was colder standing the wind than not. Most people learn that for themselves fairly quickly.

There were only a few iron clad rules back then. For one, everyone was expected to know the four rules of gun safety and observe them at all times. No exceptions. For another, you did not deprive someone of their sleep nor their food.

And so my advice to you, future professor Mike, is to inform your teenage son that he is to be quiet and still during the night because others are sleeping. No exceptions, no banging around and no phone after 11. Your son won't like it, but you'll get some sleep and that is more important than the whim of a teenager.

And, by the way, how is Mistletoe doing?

microdot said...

Screamo Music? Vas iss disss Screemo Muzik? Skreemo Muzeek at 2am? Und you do not break his fingers?

You are a much more tolerant parent than I...I use the Yakuza discipline system, the loss of a joint of a digit for each infraction.

Too bad you don't have a wood burning fireplace or stove, many hours and much energy can be expended sawing logs and chopping wood. I don't mean you, Mike, that's what kids are for.