I am a survivor. My two kids have been out of school for snow days almost as much as they've been in school this winter. One stretch was a week and a half, tacked onto a two week winter break. Twenty days of education-free togetherness. "What do you DO with them??" my friend Mary asked. I thought for a minute. "Well, they're building two snow forts. And they've figured out how to ride a small sled like a snowboard, and they go wobbling down the hill standing up and pitch forward on their faces. They call it snurfing. Then, they come inside and play with the Wii. After that, they get online and play interactive games until
they gobble up our tiny rural bandwidth allotment and crash the Internet for the next 24 hours. They strew their possessions around. They sneak marshmallows and buckets of Cinnamon Toast Crunch when I'm not looking. They come to me to settle disputes. They ask me what's for lunch and dinner. That's pretty much it."
I know. I should be treasuring our time together, baking cookies with them; guiding them to write about the beauty of winter in their journals; helping them get a jump on algebra. In truth, I'm happy just to get through each day without hollering. I put a note on my studio door that says, "Hi, kids. Is it an emergency? Anything broken? Are you bleeding? No? Good. Then get it yourself. Love,
Needless to say, I won't be a contender for Mother of the Year. When you're used to having the house to yourself on weekdays; when you're used to putting things in order and having them stay that way, having a couple of kids underfoot
for 20 days in 20-degree weather is an extreme, yogic stretch of a mother's tolerance. Each dawn, we wait for the robocall from the school superintendant, informing us that today's school will be called off for the safety of our children. And each morning, it comes, shattering the predawn dark. The days and nights roll into one another, an unbroken continuum of parenting. It could be worse, though. I work at home (or at least I remember working at home); I can take care of them. I don't have to hire or beg someone to do it for me.
My friend Lynne from Minnesota says she can't remember having a snow day for her kids in the last ten years. What's with that? Are Minnesotans that much more cold adapted than Ohioans? Larger, bulkier; with thicker hair and smaller ears? Or is it as Garrison Keillor says: "If they started that in Minnesota, where would it stop?"
Every night, I turn on the porch light and peer out the frosty glass of our door. A few tablespoons or maybe a foot of snow will have fallen, fully enough to cancel school in these slippery hills and hollers for yet another day. I suppress a scream, knowing that there's a 5 AM robocall coming that will wake us with the news that the snurfing and sledding and Wiing and cereal crunching can go on for yet another day. The kids will smile, whoop softly and fall back to sleep. I'll get up and start my day. What to have for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Looks like time for another grocery run. Funny how a child's sweetest dream is a mother's… recurring …nightmare.