As in many a typical family, everyone at my house has a different level of body heat regulation. This, coupled with the fact that we live in a large, old, drafty house, can make for some interesting arguments.
In the winter, I’m always cold, unless I’m hot. I like the thermostat set around 78 degrees. Even then, I make sure each chair or sofa has a cozy throw ready, and I wear a flannel shirt and a hoodie when lounging. I have also stocked each room with a space heater, but unfortunately, our old wiring only supports the running of one of those at a time. So if someone upstairs turns on a space heater while we’re running one downstairs, we know immediately because it throws a breaker.
I like the thermostat set at 78 until the first utility bill of the winter comes in. Then I warm up remarkably quickly and go on a rampage of energy efficiency. Last year, after our first bill nearly forced us into bankruptcy, I decreed that the thermostat would, regardless of my or anyone else’s comfort level, remain at 58 degrees. We would just layer our clothing. Our family could definitely deal with this, and I should know. I grew up in a house that did not have heat upstairs. My siblings and I would wake up to find the water in the glasses we had brought up frozen solid. And furthermore, as a result of that upbringing, I can’t buy electric blankets, because when I was a little kid, sleeping in that frigid upstairs, one started on fire. I’m not kidding. At least I was warm that night.
One positive about those long ago winters: I had a huge bladder. A person tends to hold it if running downstairs wearing only two pairs of long underwear under flannel pajamas results in hypothermia. At least once I got downstairs, I could open the fridge and huddle next to the produce for a few minutes before returning to the arctic north. Kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it.
My 12-year-old son is apparently impervious to the effects of cold. He wears shorts all winter and walks across the street to his dad’s house barefoot in the snow. I’d love to hear the stories he’ll tell his kids: “Back in my day, kids were tough. We didn’t need all these newfangled contraptions like shoes and coats.”
My daughters take after me a bit, fighting over the throws and gathering around the space heater. Typically, the scuffle to see which kid gets to be closer to the heater results in it getting tipped over, which throws a breaker whether or not another space heater is running elsewhere in the house.
By the way, once the breaker is thrown, another struggle results. Who has to go down to the chilly basement to flip it back? It certainly won’t be Dashiell, who will have suddenly developed a chill. And I can’t possibly go down there, because then I will see how messy it is and will get stranded in the basement, cleaning.
That leaves Joel. Joel, like Dashiell, is invulnerable to the cold. However, unlike Dashiell, he is also impervious to the heat. Joel isn’t even aware of the changing seasons. He just keeps wearing sweaters until I tell him to break out the short sleeves. About late May, I will break down and switch out the size 12 snow boots by the back door with sneakers, and then, sometime in June, I’ll throw a gigantic pair of thongs beside the sneakers. Yes, I said thongs. I can’t get used to this modern shoe terminology, teenage humiliation be darned. Flipflops Schmipflops.
As my kids get older, they are out of the house a lot, taking part in various school activities and spending time with friends. Millie insists that her friends’ parents keep their thermostats set much higher than we do ours. Hey, if I can put up with frostbite, she can put up with 58 degrees. Social pressure stopped getting to me ages ago, so this persuasive tactic doesn’t hold water with me. And if it did, it would be frozen water anyway.
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