My idea of the perfect snow day is sitting by the window in my bathrobe and fuzzy socks, curled up and warm with a cup of tea, watching the snow come down.
My kids, on the other hand, want nothing more than to go outside as soon as the first snowflake hits the ground. I almost always make my husband take them out to play, using some tried-and-true excuses like, “I need to clean the house,” or “I’ll work on getting your hot chocolate ready!”
The truth is, I don’t really like snow. At all. It’s too cold, too messy, and I don’t enjoy being pelted with snowballs by my rambunctious little boys. So I watch them build snowmen from the window as I “clean,” and I make sure to have the hot chocolate I’ve been “slaving over” for the past 20 minutes piping hot when they return.
The problem is, I can’t get away from snow altogether. I live in the Northeast, and there’s pretty much snow everywhere for about six weeks each year. I walk my kids to school every day, and when there is snow on the ground, the five-minute walk turns into a fifteen-minute snow party.
What is it with kids and snow? They are magnetized to it. They can’t get their hands, bodies, faces, and mouths out of it. My 10-year-old is almost past the stage of being enraptured by it, but my 4-year-old is totally obsessed.
In winter, a walk to school with Mr. 4 involves about 25 snowballs launched; a fair share of “ice skating” (i.e., falling on his butt); and about 50 handfuls of snow licked and eaten (“Nothing yellow or brown!” I hear myself yelling all morning).
He climbs on top of any snow bank he sees, and I find myself constantly fishing his shivering, snow-caked body out of them.
And let me tell you: When it’s 8 a.m., and I’m trying to drag a bunch of slowpokes down the block so that they can get to school on time — and so I can get to work on time — I do not have patience for those sorts of shenanigans.
The other day, though, after we’d dropped off his big brother at the elementary school, I had a bit of a change of heart.
We were making our way to the pre-K, and my little guy, already covered head-to-foot in snow, was going the wrong way, hanging a left so that he could knock snow off of every bush in sight. I was checking the time on my phone, starting to seethe inside.
“Hurry up!” I shouted at him, as he ran the other way.
He ran back to me, a handful of snow in his mitten, and looked at me with his giant, wondrous eyes.
“But, Mommy, it’s so magical, isn’t it?” he said.
There’s nothing like the pure, unfiltered innocence of a small child to knock you off of your feet, and put you in your place.
Little kids have no concept of time, of responsibility. They don’t know what day of the week it is, let alone how many minutes they’re wasting by running their hands across every flake of snow in sight.
All they know is that the world is suddenly covered in this beautiful white stuff, and it blows their minds. Each snowfall is totally new to them, amazing, and miraculous.
You know how the Alaska Natives have about 50 different names for snow because, to them, there are that many different kinds of snow? My son is like that, examining each kind of snow in great detail, and asking a million questions about why certain patches of snow have different consistencies and describing how the snow has changed from day to day since it first fell.
He’s learning about nature, science, the seasons, and how the world works. He’s exercising his muscles, perfecting his climbing skills, and learning balance.
He’s getting safety lessons about when snow is safe to eat and when it’s not (turns out fresh snow is safe to eat most of the time).
So, this winter, as much I can, I’m going to let my kids enjoy the snow. I’m going to give us a little extra time each morning so that my kids can frolic in it as long as they want. I’m going to try not to worry if they’re a little late to school (and I know this isn’t a popular theme for many), or if they come in literally covered from head to toe in snow.
I’m going to let them eat snow for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m going to try to deal with my own impatience, frustration, disinterest, and shivering, ice-cold body, so that they can make memories while they are so innocent and sweet.
Our kids only get one chance to just be kids, just a few years to see the world through the beautiful, ecstatic lens of childhood — a few fleeting moments to see the freezing, slushy, dirty snow not as a nuisance, but as a miracle sent from heaven.
So let’s bundle up, push aside our objections, and let them have at it.
And to my sweet son: I agree. It is magical. It really is.