Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Surviving “Snow Days”
by Julie Butler Evans

I look forward with such unmitigated glee to the end of the holiday vacation. That first week of January promises that children will be back in school and I will have at least six hours of “Julie-time.” But, inevitably, that euphoria is cut excruciatingly short thanks to another mother – Mother Nature. The snow begins to dribble or dump and suddenly the kids are home early, go in later or are home for the entire day altogether.

I’m not such an old fuddy-duddy that I don’t remember the thrill of a “snow day” as a child. Except “back in the day” we didn’t have nearly as many days off as my children have had during their school career. My friends and I waited for the bus in bundles of clothes and boots while the snow flew around us. There were plenty of mornings where we would watch the flakes come down thick outside our classroom window, but the school day was never cut short. I have to admit it was sort of exciting to be on the bus during snowstorms, going slowly down the windy roads of Weston, the chains on the bus tires jingling like bells on Santa’s sleigh. But that was then and this is now.

Now means even the report of a possible snowstorm can cause school to be cancelled. During the winter the kids watch the weather channel as if the best cartoon in the universe were on it. Even if it snows on a Saturday they are convinced that school won’t be in session come Monday morning.

I practically break out in a sweat on snow-draped mornings watching the local television stations’ school closing scroll across the bottom of the t.v. set. As soon as the schools beginning with “M’s” start my heartbeat quickens and I hold my breath and cross my fingers. If New Canaan is indeed cancelled I let out a guttural cry and flop back onto the bed. There go all my plans and appointments for the day.

So, how to survive a snow day? I actually don’t have any concrete advice and survival all depends upon the ages of your children. When any and all of mine were of nursery school and younger elementary-school age making it through the day without losing my mind and my hair meant bundling all of us up and playing out in the snowy yard for a while, hot soup and hot chocolate, board games and a couple hours of Nickelodeon. As they have gotten older – and if the driving conditions permit – we will take in a matinee, or failing that, rent a movie or two. I know it’s not ideal to depend on the television as a babysitter, but it nevertheless allows me to get some writing done, return phone calls and perform house chores uninterrupted. And always, dividing and conquering means less conflicts between siblings, so I will arrange to swap one of my kids for a friend’s kids (i.e. Janet’s friend Brooke will come over and Jack will go over to her house to play with her brother Cole). Everybody’s happy.

Well, not exactly everybody. I am happier and more productive when the kids are in school Monday through Friday. January seems unusually full of school delays, early dismissals and out and out no school. And then, before you know it, February break rolls around!

Winter should be a time to appreciate snow – tranquility! Skiing! Cozy fires! – but for this mom it more often than not causes cringing and crankiness, not my more attractive traits to be sure.

Luckily, the kids find the cringe and the crank hilarious. Perhaps that’s their way of surviving ME!

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