Snow days, when I was a kid, were the best thing ever. Especially those that were called on the morning of.
My brothers and I would sit in my parents’ bedroom as we listened to the radio, faces both excited and intense as we waited for our school to be listed next. My mom, a teacher at our school, would await the chain phone call that school had been cancelled. For some reason, the good news just seemed more joyful those mornings than at times when school was called the day before. Maybe the anticipation leading up to the day was already some kind of cheap thrill, that paid off when we heard the actual good news.
On snow days when I was a kid, we would help our mom make stovetop chocolate pudding that created the most beautiful plastic-like film on top, sealing in the creamy warm deliciousness underneath. The best time to eat it wasn’t once it solidified in the fridge, but when it cooled down to just the right temperature so that it wouldn’t scorch the roofs of our mouths.
On snow days when I was a kid, I would take out the arts and crafts toys and sit for hours making projects out of modeling clay, paint, and pipe cleaners. I would make shrinky dinks in the oven, play Lego with my brothers, make clothing for my little teddy bear out of cut up socks and random pieces of ribbon, and read on the couch, waiting for the snow to stop falling.
And once it did, we would layer ourselves in pairs of leggings, jeans, and snow pants, three top layers beneath our winter coats, two pairs of gloves, and moon boots stuffed with two pairs of socks and plastic baggies to make the feet slide in more easily. If we were able to make it out the door in our Eskimo gear, we would go in the backyard and build forts and have snowball fights. My favorite tradition on such days was making snow angels on fresh, untouched snow. Sometimes, if the timing was right, we would trek over to the hill where everyone went sledding. Well, more likely we would sit ourselves down on a sled and my mom would pull us to the appropriate spot. Once home, our ridiculous wardrobe stripped off, we would warm ourselves with hot chocolate and sit in front of the television to watch cartoons for just a little while.
Snow days have lost their magic glow now that I’ve become a parent who must occupy her children and save them from boredom. Snow itself has lost its magic more and more with every single time I have to go outside to shovel the walkway. And the driveway. And the side path. At least we don’t have a front sidewalk.
This is how it usually goes:
First snowfall: “Wow, how beautiful!” and “All this shoveling is so refreshing and a great workout!”
Second snowfall: “Man, how my back is starting to give.”
Third snowfall: “How much should we pay the guys who come around to shovel?”
Fourth snowfall: “Those guys didn’t do such a good job-have someone else do it this time” and “Heck no am I paying that much for this shoveling!” and “Fine, I’ll do it myself” and “Darn it, my back just gave out!”
And to think, the hardest snow day workout I had as a kid was not from shoveling, but rather from slowly mixing the thickening stovetop pudding until it reached the right consistency.
So then my back hurts too much to take the kids sledding, nor do I feel up to it as my month-long cold is getting worse and worse and every pharmacy in the world is out of Tamiflu. I love spending time with my kids, but I’m not really in the mood to make arts and crafts projects with them. I’m too lethargic to make homemade pizza and chocolate chip cookies (though we did make Bisquick pancakes for breakfast on the first snow day). No, on this last snow day, while I walked around with a tissue box everywhere I went, I did the ultimate no-no. After making sure all reading and homework was finished, I stuck the kids right smack in front of the TV and called it a day. Terrible parenting compared to my mom’s involvement in our day’s fun activities, but honestly, on that day, I did not feel bad about my terrible parenting one single bit.
Snow days are difficult, especially when the forecast warns you to stock up on water, food essentials, flashlights, and batteries, and then you are met with a slight frost. When the weathermen overestimate the damage and all the prep is for naught. Or when the snow hits harder than expected, and I’m left there digging out my frozen car.
For all these reasons, I can’t enjoy snow days as I had as a kid. To be completely honest, it’s a struggle to parent through them. Yes, I know, I don’t even come close to the podium where the best parents are honored for rising to the occasion. But maybe for the next snow day I’ll promise to do otherwise. I’ll try to parent better and emulate my mom as much as possible. Maybe I’ll even dare to replace the iPad with a board game. I wonder how many other parents feel the same way as I do about these snow day situations, or at least how many parents are honest enough to declare so out loud.
As for me, as an adult, snow days aren’t the worst thing ever, but they are certainly a challenge. I’m not a kid anymore and they’ve lost their charm.
But maybe, just maybe, there’s still room for a little magical nostalgia. Like the other day, when I snuck out into the backyard with no one else around and fell straight back into the fresh, untouched snow. I guess no matter your age, you’re never too old to make secret snow angels.