Snow Day Revelation
Children of all ages look forward to snow days, especially in areas where the fluffy white stuff is a rarity. Seven inches of snow fell in our area a week ago, just as predicted. Often with predictions of snow comes a reality that falls short of weather forecasts and hopes of children. Not this time. We got what was predicted. Everyone I came in contact with looked forward to a few days home with children, playing games, sledding, snowball fights, drinking hot chocolate and generally enjoying being nestled all together in a cozy home with a fire blazing. Sounds like a Norman Rockwell scene, right? This was the case in our home for a few hours, ok, maybe most of one day. Then… “I’m bored. There is absolutely nothing to do around here. I have already played in the snow (snow clothes are wet). I don’t feel like playing any games. Don’t want to practice my piano/cello (both children were sharing this sentiment and cited their respective instruments), and I don’t want to read anymore. “ Being the responsive parents that we are, my husband and I continued to give each of our children ideas of what they could do with their free day. Consistently their answers were negative or dismissive. One child left crying and going to her room in frustration. The other slinked into the media room and turned on a football game, as though we wouldn’t know. I believe my husband returned to his new computer to tinker, and I returned to the laundry room to attend to the never empty baskets of dirty clothes. What happened to the Rockwell scene?
My first response to this was frustration, and a wish for the sun to shine brightly and get rid of all the snow. Then I started remembering some of the principles I have learned from my children’s school philosophy and a parenting class I took several years ago. Children actually thrive on structure and routine. They feel safer and more secure with regular routines and boundaries. Their young minds are constantly absorbing new information as many changes are taking place developmentally, socially, and emotionally for them each day. Adding structure and routine adds stability. As an adult I can embrace the day without errands, responsibilities, and expectations. I was reminded that children need to have the structure and routine everyday, even on a day when we, as adults, think they might need a break. In hindsight I think we could have started the day off, or even the night before, with a conversation about what our snow day could look like, listening to what our children say they would like to do with the free time.
I got the opportunity to try this new approach a few days later. The forecast was for snow and freezing rain, and boy did the rain fall. It was a messy, cold day. The natives were restless by 10:00am. My daughter said she couldn’t stand it, she just had to go outside. She didn’t care how bad the weather was, she had to move her body.
I called both of my children to a mini-family meeting. “Wow, what a messy day. It looks like we will be inside all day today What are some things that you all would like to do today? Do you have any fun ideas?” I asked, optimistically, in a chipper voice. “I don’t know,” replied child one. A simple shoulder shrug was the response from child two. Okay, this new approach was working great!
Trying not to get frustrated, I tried again. “Well, what if I throw out a few ideas and you tell me if you would like to add them to the list of things to do today.” “Alright,” child one responded with a somber tone, looking off into the distance.
After a few ideas, each child started saying yes, no, or even adding to the suggestions. It was a little like pulling teeth, but with patience, I was seeing progress. By the end of the meeting, we had a plan. I pointed out that we didn’t have to have a strict plan with start and end times, just a general idea of things we would like to do today, maybe in order.
Surprisingly, the first thing on the list was an indoor obstacle course. They really needed to move their bodies. I set up a course that included running up and down the stairs, a yo-yo race, shooting soft basketballs (indoor goal), mini-trampoline, running around pillows, playing the recorder, lifting light weights in a pattern, singing a funny song in a loud voice, and ending with a hoppity ball race to the finish line. They loved it, and asked to go through it three times. By the end, my son was pooped, but my daughter wanted to have a solo race with me timing her. I saw an instant attitude improvement. We went on to play several games, read, practice instruments, and topped the day off with looking through cookbooks for ideas for dinner. Our son decided he wanted to cook dinner that night, so he proceeded to prepare barbeque potato chip chicken, whipped sweet potatoes, steamed spinach (okay, this was more of mom’s idea), and mini corn muffins. Our daughter was his assistant, peeling sweet potatoes and helping with other areas of dish preparation when asked. She decided that she wanted to contribute to the dinner, so she asked to make the dessert. Her brownies were the crowning touch to the end of a much nicer, more pleasant and fun messy weather day!