Last winter I did something unusual. I put work aside and took on the role of stay-at-home dad. Without fail, men would ask quizzically, “How do I get a gig like that?” Women would sigh, “Awww, that’s sweet.” Moms often get saddled with this monumental task and they know what resolution it takes. It was my turn to be run off my feet for a change, and I don’t regret a minute of it.
Ellis, my son, was born at forty below. I suppose childbirth at these temperatures and colder is common here. For my family (three kids + Mom, Dad and a dog), last winter was our first in Yellowknife – and what an indoctrination to the North! According to weather stats, we spent 224.3 days below zero (nearly two-thirds of the year bundled) and 105.18 days below -20.
Brrrrr. On top of the fantastic weather, a week after my son was born, the power went out. Not so unusual, except our water lines froze and we didn’t get water back for a week. Hello baby, welcome to Hoth. Being the adaptable military family we are, we persevered. And here is how we did it.
First and foremost, we learned to get out of the house! Kids and parents alike can get lost in a sea of Harry Potter and Star Wars, but this form of entertainment wears thin quickly. Winter in Yellowknife, we discovered, is two months longer on either end of the season, so hibernation isn’t an option. Trust me, your baby and kids will tell you they need out. And the best way to do that, as all seasoned Yellowknifers know, is dress for the cold.
Dress for the Cold
Dressing the family was a breeze. We just checked out fellow Yellowknifers and quickly learned how to dress for “real” winter. Dressing the baby was a bit tricky. Forget the fancy dress outfits and the infant snowsuit. What we needed was a baby bunting. It’s far too chilly for sweet newborn cheeks, so we threw him in a bunting a with a protective cover shielding his face and out into the frozen world we went.
The Ice Road
It could be a quick trip to Detah, or just stop to check out the thickness and clarity of the ice. Either way, the ice road is sure to freak out your kids.
Ruth Inch Pool
Ruth was our saviour. Twice a week we shed our heavy boots and parkas in exchange for shorts and flip-flops. It’s not Cuba, but at least there’s water and a sauna. Our winter skin was so pasty we secretly hoped the neon lights of the pool would give us a tan.
Home Shows & Events
We hit every home show. Free stuff and social interaction equals happy kids and happy wife. The Snowking’s Ice Castle and Longjohn Jamboree are also great family-friendly activities.
Date Night or Brunch
The Dancing Moose for breakfast or perhaps you need a Saturday night outing? Great food and live entertainment can take the sting out of any chilled soul. Go for a hot beverage at either Javaroma or Gourmet Cup. Coffee shops love babies. I can’t tell you how many older men stopped to chat only to make the baby giggle. Under their gruff exterior, Yellowknife men are all softies.
Long Lost Hobbies
Writing and illustrating articles for was something I started on parental. When you’re putting the infant to bed for what feels like an eternity, why not tap out an article on your tablet or smartphone?
This may take a bit of coordination with your spouse, but the reciprocity will be good for you and the organization you support. I helped the Yellowknife Climbing Club. What a great bunch of people!
Go to the dump
It goes without saying that it’s a lot colder to scavenge in the winter, but the dump is still packed full of treasures. If anything, you can think of the items as preserved.
Indoor Rock Climbing
The Yellowknife Climbing Club on Kam Lake Road is a friendly, family-oriented environment. It’s an evening activity for young and old. Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never done it before, the friendly volunteers are there for a little coaching and advice. You may surprise yourself at what you are able to do.
While your kids are at school, why not head to the Yellowknife Fieldhouse? A few laps around the track while the baby sleeps in the stroller is a great way to combat the blues while preventing winter onset atrophy.
Why not take a night or two and stay at the Explorer Hotel? How many of you have stayed at the same hotel graced by royalty? It’s cheaper than a return trip for the family to Edmonton in any case.
Yellowknife winter is long. Longer than all the other places we’ve been posted as a gypsy military family. Despite the cold, it doesn’t have to limit what you do. As we’ve discovered, Yellowknife is truly a place of hidden treasures.
My wife and I always tell the kids, “A place is what you make it.” And we think this place is great.