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Being A Parent On A Snow Day

A mom realizes that the glory of a snow day belongs to a much younger generation. (stevendepolo/flickr)
A mom realizes that the glory of a snow day belongs to a much younger generation. (stevendepolo/flickr)
This article is more than 5 years old.

There’s something about snow days I never fathomed as a kid.

For parents, it’s not exactly a snow day.

(File under: Things you don’t learn until you breed.)

“Snow days used to be about red wine and Netflix,” posted a 30-something friend on Facebook last week, reminiscing about the days of yore — pre kids — when a blizzard meant a lazy, buzzed afternoon.

Now, with two kids in tow, she’s tallying a list of the kid-friendly items she should have on hand for the next blizzard, to help ease cabin fever when schools and daycares close: “Assorted glue sticks, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, craft paper.”

I’m trying to reconcile the idyllic, responsibility-free snow days that kids experience with the real-world version of the already stressed-out parents.

Red wine goes by the wayside.

And Netflix?

Well, there are always “Sesame Street” reruns.

It’s TV to the rescue for my sister, a middle-school teacher in Reading, Mass., who was “gifted” two snow days within the span of a week. I texted her to inquire how the second was going, since her 2-year-old was home from daycare. Again.

“Long day already,” she wrote.

The time stamp on the message read 10:13 a.m.

Whatever happened to the glory of a snow day?

I guess we grew up. And had kids.

What I’m experiencing, according to another Facebook friend, is a loss of innocence. It’s the realization that one of the best things from our youth — the unexpected snow day, a gift from the blizzard gods — is often greeted with “harrumph” instead of “hurrah” when parents need to juggle work schedules on short notice and arrange play dates to keep the kids entertained. Or, at the very least, occupied.

I’ve long since grasped that there’s a cost to snow days — with lost wages (for non-salaried workers) and lost taxes. After all, if you can’t go to work and if you can’t shop, then the government doesn’t collect as much revenue in taxes. But what about the house-turned-upside-down cost to parents? I have to say I never considered that. I guess it’s just called parenthood.

My childhood memory of the blissful snow day, rich with hot cocoa and indoor forts and binge-eating of Kudos bars, is now cast in doubt. Was Mom really sulking while I squealed with delight, as I stuffed my face with junk food that was usually metered out more carefully? (Maybe her lax and generous attitude toward sweets on snow days was part of her tactic to keep me occupied and happy.)

I call my parents in Needham.

My dad answers. I tell him I’m trying to reconcile the idyllic, responsibility-free snow days that kids experience with the real-world version of the already stressed-out parents.

“Welcome to the club,” he says. He sounded a little too gleeful.

During the commute to my university campus yesterday morning — when all schools in the county canceled class due to the blizzard — I receive another glimpse into this parallel (snow-day) world for parents.

“Good luck to all the parents out there today,” said the radio announcer. I don’t think he was talking about the driving conditions.

On the home front, my husband was tasked with minding our 19-month-old daughter, home from daycare. Through various texts back and forth he said the day went smoothly, thanks to an impromptu play date with our neighbor’s 3-year-old.

'Snow days used to be about red wine and Netflix,' posted a 30-something friend on Facebook last week...

“You should make them popcorn,” I texted between my classes. I envisioned our gargantuan blue bowl — the size of three adult heads — keeping the toddlers busy as they mashed popped maize into their pie holes.

“The munchkins are having a blast,” he wrote back an hour later. The snack must have helped.

My sister, however, didn’t get off scot-free.

“I feel so trapped,” she texted. “I want to get out of the house!” Her 2-year-old has recently taken to poo-pooing naps

Meanwhile, with my classes done for the day I was heading to a dental appointment. No need to rush home. My husband and daughter were gangbusters apparently, even if I would have to spend the evening vacuuming up popcorn-encrusted carpets. This snow day (the kids’ version) now belongs to the memory book.

Hinda Mandell Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Hinda Mandell, a Boston-area native, is associate professor in the School of Communication at RIT in Rochester, New York.

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