The true mark of adulthood is not age: it’s whether you react to a snow day with despair or delight.
“Thank you, God!” my 4th grader yelled, as he hopped from foot to foot in a spontaneous variant on the hora with his 3rd grade brother (I had thought the school superintendent was responsible for making the decision on calling off school on account of inclement weather, but never mind). My 2-year-old, upon learning she would not be going to school, promptly burst into tears.
I totally know how the 2-year-old felt. With less than two weeks until the interminable winter break–I mean, that joyous time with no school, when babysitters all have better things to do than hang out with your kids–all work for the work-from-home parent needs to be taken care of today, if not yesterday. Having three kids at school was essential in order for me to accomplish anything, whether that “anything” was work, newborn baby gift thank you notes, or simply sitting down.
I’m also the kind of parent who sees snow as something best viewed through a window or in an Ansel Adams photo. I see snow and I start thinking of snow scrapers, rock salt ruining my shoes, and moving to California.
Plus of course, there are the attendant stresses of the snow day for the parent, like the games of Where The F*ck Did I Put Their Gloves?, Let’s See Whose Snowpants Still Fit!, Can The Toddler Hang Onto My Legs For 24 Hours? and Sibling Rivalry: The Over-Amplified Musical.
But then, I started getting gifts: unexpected gifts that fell from the sky like the snow, making everything look different and even kind of beautiful.
1. Help was all around me.
The first gift was that my husband stayed home from work. I do not like to be alone, as exemplified both by how I keep having kids to keep me company and how I am always on Facebook. Parenting can be lonely, though, no matter how many kids you have. And having another adult–preferably one you like, or even love!–around makes a huge difference, both in terms of help and in terms of psychological outlook, which can be just as valuable as another set of hands, if not even more.
2. Little things mean a lot.
The second gift was oatmeal cookies. As I finished my oatmeal for breakfast, I noticed there was a recipe for oatmeal cookies on the inside of the lid of the container that didn’t seem too difficult, even for me. So I asked my 2-year-old, who happened to be hanging around my legs, if she wanted to bake cookies with me. Unsurprisingly, once she heard the word “cookies,” she was in.
She wasn’t even interested in the end product, as it turned out. For her, the “fun” was taking out the bowls, stirring the brown and white sugars together, and wiping her sticky hands on my sweater and pants. Even more so, though, she was enjoying spending the time with me. And I was enjoying spending it with her. And if the cookies came out crappy, I didn’t care. We were working together. And it was fun for both of us
3. Low Expectations Yield Great Results.
The third gift? We had no plans whatsoever. In contrast to our regular days in which we zoom around from activity to activity, playdate to playdate, school to lesson, this was a day when the minivan stayed still. I didn’t look at my watch once until the sun went down. And I found I was more at peace. And when you are more at peace, everything is easier, from dealing with the exasperation of a kid whose brother put snow down his coat (hypothetically) to the wiggling of a toddler not so happy to get into a snowsuit. Peace means patience.
So we ate oatmeal cookies, and baked ziti. We played Clue (Colonel Mustard, with the lead pipe, in the bathroom). The boys played with friends across the street–spontaneously, as in days of old when I was growing up. We all went out together in the snow. We watched as the 2-year-old yelled, “Faster, Daddy!” as he pulled her in the sled. The 1-year-old was dragged behind us on her sled like Cleopatra on a litter, which amused her immensely. Falling out of the sled amused her less. We all went home and had hot cocoa. It wasn’t perfect–and that made it perfect.
It was a great, great day. And even being in two hours of traffic driving the boys to the ex-husband’s house didn’t phase me in the slightest. But even great days end. When we finally got to their dad’s house, the boys kissed me goodbye, and slid out of the car quickly, like accumulated snow falling on the windshield from the roof of the car. Suddenly, they were gone. I drove back, feeling silence as an absence rather than a gift, as I usually do.
And in the morning, I looked out the window to a sky blue with cold. The sun hit the snow with a blinding light that smacked me in the face with a vengeance as if to say, “Wake up!”
And we all should take a day to wake up, I realized–because whether it’s snow or childhood, none of it will last very long.