There was a time I didn't pay much attention to the weather, unless I was preparing for a special occasion. My wedding, say. Or a cookout, or a trip to the beach. Other than that, I'd wake up, look out the window, throw on something appropriate and, if it was raining, resign myself to a less-than-attractive hairstyle. I could go days without glancing at the newspaper's weather page or tuning into the radio or television forecast.
My overall record with weather is fair but not great. Vacations end up rainy as often as not, though I haven't endured any hurricanes.
My wedding was scheduled to coincide with the traditional blooming of the cherry blossoms. While it was a lovely spring day, the blossoms, alas, were not in attendance, having bloomed and blown away in historic haste. I've learned, as most of us do with life as well as weather, not to expect perfection; to hope for the sun but prepare for the rain. To take what comes.
But that's not an easy lesson to impart to children. Part of being a parent, after all, is to hope, however irrationally, that disappointment can be kept at bay, that we can will the sun to shine on our loved ones. So I've lost more sleep worrying about whether uninvited storms will spoil my daughters' birthday parties than I did over my wedding.
Parenting has stripped me of my habitual ignorance or equanimity about the weather. Now I know daily pollen counts, UV ray indexes and air-quality codes. Television weather is often the last thing I watch, bleary-eyed at night, and the first thing I turn on in the morning. I'll crawl back into bed with whichever child is awake, close my eyes, listen to the :25 or :55 forecast and plan my day.
I don't think this attention to meteorological detail is unwarranted; other than sports enthusiasts and pilots, perhaps, no one is at the mercy of the weather as much as the parent of small children. The weather influences life in our household in ways I'd never imagined when all I had to fret about was frizz. In the cooler months, it determines whether our older daughter will be forced to wear pants to school, or will be allowed to don a dress and tights; whether I wrestle my younger daughter into some boots or allow her to wear her red-glitter "ruby slippers"; whether the day will be spent bundling and unbundling snowsuit-clad children, or fighting a raging outbreak of cabin fever.
In the spring months, the weather decides whether we will be cooped in all day or make it to the park. In the summer, whether the pool is in our forecast. During allergy season, we watch mounting pollen or ragweed counts with the attentiveness of day traders to predict whether we are likely to be up at night with a wheezing child.
At the beach, the weather channel is often the only station allowed to flicker onto the TV screen -- though sometimes we get caught up in the drama of the forecasters' terrible suits and unfortunate haircuts and watch longer than expected.
There's no more anxious person than a parent who has planned an outdoor birthday party for a young child. Even brides cannot compare; they have the comfort of a tradition that decrees that rain on a wedding is good luck. There's no similar consolation for a parent facing a pool-party rainout; few prospects are as terrifying as a herd of preschoolers rampaging around your house. (Actually, it did rain for my older daughter's first birthday party, a Hawaiian luau. But there were only two other toddlers in attendance, so we brought in the wading pool, put a couple of potted plants next to it, stuck the kids inside, and fed them their luau there.)
Now I take it as a personal affront when the weathercasters are wrong, expecting of them the same infallibility our children demand of us. "They said it was going to be clear," I say to a disgruntled child who is wondering why I can't take her to the pool as promised. "They said it was going to be cool," I say defensively to a fellow preschool mother, who I am convinced is wondering why my child is wearing a sweat shirt on what has turned out to be a balmy day.
There are times, though, when I realize that with all my preoccupation with temperatures and pollen counts, I haven't really concentrated on the weather. Times when almost despite myself, my eyes will register a gorgeous expanse of azure, a sun-silvered cloud or a low-hanging harvest moon.
There are times when I'll make an unplanned stop at a park and my children will draw my attention to where it should be. "Why can't the sun stop the wind," my older daughter asks. "Look mom," yells my 2-year-old from the swing, "the sky is blue." Those times I'm grateful to my children, who have forced me to focus not just on forecasts and predictions, but on what's right in front of me. Not just numbers and indexes, but the wind and the sky.