I grew up in Iowa, where the snow days were almost nonexistent. Walking to school in a blizzard? Sure. If you ask my kids who can’t verify the truth in that statement. Seriously, though, schools didn’t like to cancel back in the day. Maybe we were tougher? Maybe school administrators cared less about things like frostbite and ice-skating cars? Maybe the planners didn’t plan ahead for the occasional freebie on the school calendar? Not sure.
But oh, when those snow days came, we rose to the fort-building challenge. I remember fondly bundling up, digging and building, and triumphantly returning inside for hot chocolate about three minutes later when I was cold. Because I really wasn’t tougher. I was a whiny little snowbaby who spent 1/86 of my snow days in the snow and the rest of it getting whooped up on in some ferocious games of Monopoly and complaining about being bored.
And I honestly don’t know how the snow days affected my mother. Don’t know if she spent her break at work lamenting how we never seemed to be in school and how we were going to drive her to drink if we were cooped up in our house one more day. Clearly, I never gave mom enough credit. Because now that I am a mom myself, I have some experience with the snow day. Survival tips? Got a few. Teenage style.
- Stockpile. When the threat of snow shows up on the weather app, everyone seems to develop an inexplicably strong desire to make French Toast. Eggs, milk, and bread show up in all the shopping carts. It’s honestly a great time to buy apples and kale because that aisle is stocked to the gills and ripe for the picking when inclement weather hits. So, what does it look like to plan ahead and stockpile teenager style? Well, I sure as all get out am not dragging myself out in the cold, and I already have enough cheese, wine, and salt and vinegar chips that I’ve had to hide in the hall closet next to the cleaning supplies because it’s the last place the teenagers would think of looking. And so, off to the store the teenagers go to stock up. At that point, I might as well have just taken stock in Little Debbie snacks and Doritos. Every once in a while a protein shows up in the form of beef jerky or something that resembles pepperoni in the middle of a pizza roll. Never does a fruit come home on those days. Unless it’s shaped like a bear and is bagged with several colorful friends. If we’re snowed in for days, we’ll basically be a semi-solid mass of preservatives, sugar, and half and half because they will have forgotten milk for their cereal and will use up all my coffee creamer.
- Plan activities. This is the easiest part. To practice, duct tape your mouth shut or soundproof your walls because no matter how hard you try or how loud you yell, nobody will hear you. Get yourself a tiny violin to play when the WiFi goes out because of the cold weather. Grab a deck of cards for the later parts of the day when the kids are bored so you can play solitaire while they angrily blame you for every time Netflix cuts out or cable is only running daytime TV shows about cooking (and nothing helpful like how to better utilize soda and snack cakes in your recipes) and divorce among music theory majors who moonlight as essential oils salespeople.
- Make memories. Plan on making some cookie dough to roll out together as a family and cut into cute little shapes. Then make them yourself when the group chat blows up their phones. Find that great family movie on Netflix that is appealing to both adults and teenagers and is highly appropriate for both. And after you find that, write a book about it, unicorns, and healthy snack foods that are all, well, not real. Take advantage of everyone being home and get out those board games. See if all the pieces are there so that you’re not the insensitive one who donates incomplete family games to the Salvation Army. Plan on doing that yourself.
- Catch up on work. Snow days are a terrific opportunity to get the bathrooms super clean and the laundry way caught up. And because the teenagers recognize the gift of time that was handed to them in a cancellation notice, they will surely embrace that toilet brush with fervor while they keep pace with garden slugs as they head in to clean. And then don’t because it’s too hard but sure do create a need for a three-hour shower that leads them to complain that there is no hot water. And makes them so tired that they find the need to nap. For four more hours. And then wake up starving but not enough to eat the broiled fish that your doctor has begged you to eat and that you lovingly make for those you care about so very much. Thankfully, there are rainbow marshmallows in the cereal and neon orange chips. A colorful plate is a good thing, right?
- Embrace the quality time. By yourself. Because who are we kidding? When they’re little, we can’t pee alone. When they become teenagers, we force them to meet time quotas and conversation minimums. We demand that phones don’t come to the dinner table and that they at least attempt to participate in a conversation, and then we hang on the three words that they do say with the appearance of not caring too much so as not to annoy them into absolute silence. And the school day only looks different than a snow day in that they complain about calculus and not water temperature in that three-word speech.
But I sure do love those three words more than I could ever love any sugar cookies or a clean bathroom. I love their independence. I love their wit and their intelligence that lurks behind the sulky expressions and Snapchatting faces. I love that the conversations, while certainly few and far between, are often thoughtful and engaging. I love that they are here on the snow days and not in a college dorm where I worry if they are bundling up enough before they head out to get the cereal and cookies. And I guess at this point, I look forward to the days when those teenagers become adults who are the bringers of grandchildren on their own snow days and I get to make cutout sugar cookies.
By myself because the toddlers really only want to eat neon snacks and find animated goodness to watch on Netflix.