It snowed today in a DC kinda way—an inch or so and then slush and rain. Not quite the snow days of my childhood, climate change and all, but my kids were thrilled. “There’s so much snow!” my daughter squealed.
The kids were climbing over me before I could get out of bed to stare out the window at the falling flakes. Before I’d even managed breakfast, friends had posted photos on Facebook of their kids’ snow day play. Their snowmen may have been half grass and mud, but they’d already managed to get outside. Which made every minute that it took me to bundle my brood and get us out the door seem physically painful.
A wise friend once quipped something I try to keep in mind when viewing other people’s lives via Facebook, “Don’t compare your B roll with someone else’s highlight reel.” This is genius that goes well beyond social media to other parent viewing in general. We make so many assumptions from the little glimpes we see. No one was there to witness our bundling up and all the requisite fussing this morning, and I wasn’t around to see what happened at anyone else’s house before (or after) their snow day pics.
Once we were out the door, we trudged along our snowless sidewalk to the playground in search of maximum snow, built our snowman (the lack of woodchips and dirt revealing that I was way more into it than they were), tasted some “clean” snow (I opted out of this one) and tromped home again. Followed by fussing over the temperature of the hot chocolate and fussing because, by this time, it was getting late for lunch and naps. But in-between the bookends of getting in and out of the house, we managed a nice little story for ourselves.
Another wise friend, who was a mama to two elementary age boys while I was still pregnant with my first, confessed her displeasure at sunny days, “They’re so stressful when you have kids. You feel guilty if you’re not at the playground, outside, running around and happy the whole time.”
Snow days are something like sunny days when it comes to kids. There are so many things you feel like you should be doing, that you know would be fun for the kids and yet you don’t always wake up ready and easger to give yourself over to the work involved in making that happen.
The expectations are big—in your own mind as well as in the kids’ ideas about the day. And big expectations are a parental minefield. Explosions, of the tiny people variety, will happen. Just wait for them and know they’re coming—sometimes that perspective alone can make the inevitable more bearable.
Rainy days are something else altogether. I think they get a bad rap for creating stir-crazy kids, which they often do. But if you do something ambitious on a rainy day—like pull on rain boots for a good old-fashioned, neighborhood puddle-stomp, it’s extra. It’s unexpected and you do it because you feel like doing it.
And if you don’t, then you don’t. No big deal. Rain gives you full permission to stay inside and take it easy. I love rainy days with kids. It takes the pressure off, slows you down and whatever happens will exceed expectations.
It’s the same when you have a sick kid. You have two choices—it can be awful, or you can go with it. Knowing that it won’t be easy, that you won’t “get things done,” can be liberating. The easiest way to get through a day like that is to slow down, be with your sick kid and let go of everything else.
When it’s just an ordinary day and I find myself yelling at the kids because I’m trying to get grown-up things done and they’re trying to be kids, I try to tap into those memories of slow days—rainy or snowy or spent with sick kids or whatever it was that slowed us down.
And when I feel the pressure of a day that’s full of expectations, I also try to remind myself that it doesn’t all need to happen today. All of my memories of snow days as a kid do not need to be channeled into making sure my kids have a fun day on this specific day just because it snowed.
As much as I want to take everything happy from my childhood and recreate it for my kids, that’s not how it really happened when I was little. There were years and years of snowy winter days and sunny summer fun. I keep forgetting how much time I still have with them, how many more days we still have together to do the things that they’ll remember.
Sometimes trying to make this day perfect for them is too much pressure. It’s not how memories are made. And more than anything, I want them to remember being happy and spending time with a happy mom.
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