Snow is in the forecast and the possibility of a snow day is very good. This will be the first snow day of the school year for our district and I’m trying to remember how we survive them. Early on, I used to think snow days would involve a nicely balanced day of peaceful baking, crafting and reading with occasional breaks to go frolic in the white stuff and build a picturesque snowman. I had this whole hazy vision of contentment. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m not that kind of parent and, more importantly, my kids aren’t that kind of kids.
Instead, I’ve learned to abandon any kind of vision or expectation and just go with what happens. I don’t know if it’s the excitement of the storm, joy over playing hooky from life, or friskiness from the chill, but snow days are different than usual days off. You have no control over this day. You will not accomplish any cleaning, organizing, reading and most certainly not any work. I usually don’t even get a chance to log into my work e-mail. I don’t care what happens in your house on a regular weekend. This is a snow day, it follows its own rules, and those rules are not your rules.
In my experience, a good snow day will have the following chunks of activity. You have little control over the order in which these chunks occur. They will just happen. Embrace the chaos. Or, at the very least, don’t let the chaos run you over.
Feed ’em. Constantly. Somehow, when they are at school my children manage to live on three meals a day plus a snack or two. When they are home, they stride around this house like black holes with feet, sucking in anything food-related. This goes double on snow days. Is the cold increasing their appetites? Is playing endless rounds of Uno burning off calories? I don’t know. I used to argue with them about it. Try the old “You just ate lunch five minutes ago” route. Now I just fling food at them anytime they walk by.
Bake for ’em. You are going to need fuel for those little black holes. Just grab onto the first baking idea that crosses your mind and go for it: pumpkin bread, muffins, cookies, chicken pot pie…who cares. Don’t expect them to help. Yes, yes, the vision of your little cherubs donning an apron and helping you roll out sugar cookies is a tempting one, but if you expect them to help, they won’t help and then you’ll be mad. If you don’t ask, they will help. It’s a win either way. If they don’t help, you get it done in a timely manner and without destroying the entire kitchen. If they do help, you have a bigger mess and more frustration, but it fills up more of the day. I think that’s pretty even.
Exercise ’em. They need fresh air. Yes, even if it’s a howling blizzard. It’s good for them to get out there and experience the full seasons, right? Send them out to do little chores (brushing off the car is a hot commodity in my house for some reason), throw them a shovel, have them take the dog for a walk in the yard, ask them to go measure the snow. And don’t tell yourself that they have to get all their outside time at once. I’d estimate that my kids go outside four to five separate times each snow day for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more. Yes, it’s irritating to help them put on and take off snow gear that many times but who cares? Our goal is to burn up those hours.
Ignore ’em. Yep. Just let them be. My kids tend to stay in their pajamas all day long on snow days because I never bother to ask them to get dressed. (I tell myself that fleece footies are actually a great underlayer for snowpants.) They play weird games with their stuffed animals. They cut paper in tiny, irritating pieces for no identifiable reason. They make up odd dances in the middle of a howling blizzard. Occasionally if it’s particularly brutal outside I’ll do a quick check for signs of life, but otherwise my job is to keep the woodstove stoked so it’s available for mitten drying and to keep the snacks and hot chocolate coming. Their lives are scheduled enough, you know? Let the day off be a day off.
As for that bastion of the snow day, a movie? Yeah, they’ll do that, too, but usually not until late afternoon when it’s getting dark out, every game leads to a fight, and we are all heartily sick of each other. Then it’s time for them to settle in while I enjoy the quiet, turn over the drying mittens one last time, and maybe, just maybe, finally get to that e-mail.
But it’s more likely I’ll read a book and eat some of those cookies we baked.
After all, it’s my day off, too.