Children with Different Snow Day Schedules
I have been wrestling with the ultimate winter two-child dilemma a lot this year. What to do when my first grader’s school is closed, but my son’s preschool is open. We’ve had four snow days when my daughter’s school was closed, but for three of them, our son’s preschool was open. He loves school, but he also loves snuggling in bed with his sister watching cartoons in the morning. It’s really tempting to keep him home for the day. Fantasies of the kids playing happily all day long before settling in for a movie and hot chocolate dance in my head. The first two snow days, we kept our 3-year-old home. The fantasy holds until about 11:00 a.m. That’s the snow day witching hour. At the exact minute I can no longer ignore the work e-mails piling up, my children can no longer enjoy each other’s company, play independently, or understand the meaning of “indoor voice.” And while my daughter could be quietly occupied with the iPad, art projects, or other quiet independent activities, this is not the case for a 3-year-old boy. At best he’s happily playing with his trucks while making all the noise of a Monster Truck rally in our 10×12′ living room. At worst, he’s fighting a diaper change, fighting a nap and fighting his sister all at once. In short, I can get work done with my first grader at home. Not so much with my preschool son.
So just send him to preschool, you say. Well, I did that on the third snow day. And as the snow piled up around us, so did the guilt. I felt bad. Really bad. Now mind you, I have never felt guilt about being a working mom and enrolling my children in a great child care center since they were babies. The guilt was not about that. It was about excluding my son from what the rest of the family was doing. My daughter, husband and I were all at home (my husband works from home regularly), and yet we sent out littlest one away for the day. It seemed so unfair. His sister has dozens of activities that her brother is too young to participate in, and he’s old enough to understand. She gets to talk about skating, skiing, karate and piano, and he is keenly aware that they don’t include him. At bed time, he has started a ritual of saying, “Tell me what I do.” It’s his way of saying he needs reassurance that he’s an equal member of the family. It’s adorable and and little sad all at once. So when we sent him to school, I felt sad for him all over again.
And then a fabulous things happened. At about 3:30 in the afternoon we got an e-mail from his Bright Horizons center. There were about a dozen photos and a subject line of “Our First School-Wide Snowball Fight.” And it was a big dose of joy right there in my inbox. My son was having fun doing HIS thing. And I would have felt guilty if I hadn’t sent him to school and he hadn’t gotten to participate in the snowball fight. And when he went to bed that night and he said, “Tell me what I do,” I got to tell him, “You go to school. And you make snow balls. And you have snowball fights. And you have fun with you friends and your teachers….” And all the guilt had melted away.
Now, if I could just say the same for the snow…