Two Four Letter Words: Snow Days
Kids dream of a day off from school. But for parents, the two words don't always bring as much excitement.
The phone rang late at night last week. You know late night or early morning phone calls don’t usually contain good news. I walked slowly to the phone, picked up the receiver, listened to the words on the other end. A tear rolled down my cheek. It’s the kind of news no parent really wants to hear - is scared to hear:
Like children all over New England, both my kids were hoping this would happen, my daughter pulling out all the stops and using every “good luck” moves she knows. She put her pajamas on inside out and backwards, licked a spoon and shoved it under her pillow, and placed a live flower in her room. All these things were sure to guarantee another snow day, and what do you know! It worked. Maybe I should try these maneuvers and see if I wake up to a newly remodeled kitchen. Or a clean living room. I’d even settle for a drawer full of clean socks and underwear.
But there they were, home again, three children who wanted nothing more than to play in the snow, build snow forts, and make snow angels. And there I was, the mom who wanted nothing more than to ship them off to school. I know. Mediocre with a capital M.
But I didn’t totally suck. Last Wednesday, after a productive writing morning, I shut down the computer and focused on the kids. Nine cherubs from our neighborhood played in our front yard and driveway pretty much the live-long day. Early afternoon I brought out a large push-thermos of hot chocolate, mugs with colored bands (so they knew whose mug was whose), and a bowl of big marshmallows. “Hot Chocolate!” I cried into the grey day, my voice channeling June Cleaver. The kids came running, red faced and panting, to the warm respite I provided.
They laughed and drank hot chocolate, ate marshmallows, refueling their tanks for more outdoor play. I went back into the house and made cupcakes with homemade vanilla frosting. I topped some with coconut, some with sprinkles, and some with blue and white sugar with tiny little confectionary snowflakes. Betty Crocker herself couldn’t have made more beautiful cupcakes. I was kind of hoping that photographers would show up, say from Better Homes and Gardens, Family Fun, or even Oprah, just to get some pics of these wonderful treats I was providing for the gaggle of children in front of my house. Heaven knows I could use some perfect-mom publicity.
In addition to cupcakes and hot chocolate, I made three boxes of macaroni and cheese, steam rising from bowls as I served the girls outside on a tray in picnic fashion. The boys, already inside playing video games, ate at the table where they also enjoyed soda, followed of course, by a beautifully decorated cupcake. My kids couldn’t have been happier. The neighbor kids couldn’t have been happier. The neighbor kids’ parents couldn’t have been happier. Everyone was happy, happy, happy, all day. Even my children bragged to my husband about their great day and how fun mom was. (Which unfortunately, inspires shock and surprise in my family.)
Occasionally I break from my mediocre shell and do something for my children. I figure they deserve to experience the “good mom” at least once a quarter. I also try to include as many other children as I can, namely because they serve as witnesses to my moments of greatness. I’m no idiot. I know my children will need happy memories to off-set the negative things I do, and making sure there are other kids to see and experience those good times is a little like insurance for me. I imagine that as my kids get into high school the conversations between my children and their friends will go something like this:
My son: “Gawd, my mom sucks! She never lets me listen to music with explicit lyrics and she still won’t let me play Call of Duty: Black Ops. I hate her stinkin’ guts.”
My son’s friend: “C’mon man! What are you talking about? Remember that time your mom brought us hot chocolate and marshmallows outside when we were playing in the snow? Or what about that one summer when we had movie night and she fed everyone dinner, popcorn, and we all watched a movie downstairs? That’s more than my parents do for me. You’re one lucky dude.”
Honestly, there’d probably be more swearing in that conversation, but I’m not sure which swears will be their favorite. You can fill them in yourself.
Doing nice things for my kids when their friends are over serves two purposes: it makes my children look good in front of their peers, and it helps their friends to like me. I fully understand that my own children will dislike me at some point, even if I let them play video games and eat chocolate frosted donuts every day for hours. But if their friends hate you, well that’s another story. Then no one will want to come over to your house, and your child will be drawn to the other cool parents in the neighborhood; ones who might teach them the difference between pimps and gangstas. You definitely want to avoid those parents.
But my benevolence has limits. I’m good for a twelve-hour day of kid-focused activities and food, but two days is just too much. Which is why when the phone rang late last Wednesday night, I cried a little. The kids were in bed, which at least saved me from hearing the whoops and hollers of excitement and them asking me if they could stay up all night (again) because “there isn’t any school tomorrow.” Thursday loomed large, as I faced another snow day with three children who would want to be little human meat-sickles, freezing and defrosting themselves in 20-minute increments all day long. After all, I put my time in didn’t I? Wasn’t it someone else’s turn to entertain them?
Thursday morning, after sleeping in until 8:00, the kids awoke, ready for another day of no school, and no homework. I bundled them up and sent them out the door with one direction: “Play at someone else’s house for awhile.” Yes, my mediocre was back on. One snow day I can handle. Two snow days is snow-fun at all.