Wednesday, January 27, 2016

To Snow Day, or Not to Snow Day?

We get some doozy snow days in Meaford, lake effect snow has been known to surprise us with very deep mornings, wind whipping the icy white in all directions, making conditions unsuitable for school buses to drive our precious children around the scary roads.  

This year we have had just a few so far, the mild winter has afforded many sunny or just wet days for the bus or walking commute.  I have heard complaints from fellow in-town parents that the last couple of snow days were unjustly decided upon, a forecast that was worse than what had actually arrived? or a sunny frozen-rain day that must have caused the back roads to be slippery?  

Easy for some to criticize, but I know there is a lot that goes into the process of calling a snow day, a.k.a. No-Bus Day.  A few years ago when I was coordinating a fund raising event for the girls' school I heavily debated the timing of a February gig, as the entertainment would have to come from the city and the whole thing would be cancelled should the bus kids not be able to make it to town.  It was an early morning of phone calls with the principal, opinions flying back and forth between school board dignitaries and bus line managers - all relying on the weather network if that gives you any indication as to the confusion attributed to a snowy country morning.  

Much of my childhood/teen years were in the country as well, I don't remember having many snow days in Muskoka ha ha NO. They just drove the busses through it.  But the snow belt in which I got my high school education was sure to provide several snow days annually: postponed exams every January, mile-high snowbanks on the highways, and icy wind swirling it all around like some horror movie snow globe set.  I was a town kid then, but I rarely hiked to school on those days, it was an extra day to study, or catch an extra shift at my awesome student job in the local hospital kitchen, or do both of those and then go find some mischief with my friends.  

Now I have the distinct pleasure of watching my teenagers decide how to make the best use of their time on no-bus days.  They are town kids.  They can walk to school. There have only been a couple of days so bad that I wouldn't have allowed them to walk.  Had they wanted to.... this is where things get sticky for me as a parent.  

I fondly remember the days when they would go to school on snow days and have fun with their townie friends, extra gym time and kindergarten crafts! Ah the good old days.  Now I have exhausted teens who NEED to sleep in, stay home and blast their music while calling their friends to come over and take over the kitchen with baking apparatus and sugar everywhere.  They play on their social media, they practice their makeup skills and dye their hair, they mmaaaay clean their rooms if under great duress, or if it happens to be a CLEAR no-bus day like yesterday, then they adore me for taking them to the mall.  To go shopping.  With their friends.  Not with me. LOL

I think I always knew this shift would happen, I just do not recall when it actually did.   

As juniors they always clamoured for a fun snow day at school, but then around grade six they started to want to skip on snow days, we alternated home day with forced school attendance day.  Now this is the second winter I have lost the battle, grade eight and independence reigns.  Extra gym time does not entice a grade eight girl to want to leave her cozy dark bedroom before 10 a.m. without Mom's big snow-day breakfast. No! Apparently none of them do? 
Grade eight is a time of boundary exploration.  They are beginning to make the choices for themselves: spend a free day catching up or getting ahead on school work? Or pushing the deadline and seeing if the teacher will give the town kids the same extension as the country ones get. Haha  All with flawless hairstyles and new clothes and music I might add.

I do not begrudge them this time, they know as well as I do that I love having them home on what feels like a bonus weekend day.  Especially while I am able to be home to enjoy spending this time with them and their friends.  It is true I enjoy making a special breakfast on snow days, there is always a surprise pack of bacon or pancake chocolate chips to pass the morning by.  
Claire has perfected her omelette-making technique. (I still remember my Auntie C teaching me to make omelettes when I was that age, she beat the whites fluffy separate from the yolks and added the filling at the end, like a fancy brunch plate made to order. That is one of my first memories of learning to cook, it sparked my passion for all things kitchen.)
Yesterday we played games as well, early morning chess, Cathedral World, then Cassie's new board game, then a card game, then closed the day with more chess.  It was so fun, we vowed to chess again tonight.  
Thanks to my friend who taught me a few years ago, it has become not only a skill I value having in my back pocket, but it is a character trait I find appealing in myself and in others who possess it.  I think it is fair to call chess a character trait.  I had abandoned it for a few years while busy full-time working and mothering, but now I have dusted off my rooks and game on!  The girls play each other and have started playing with their teacher on breaks at school, fantastic.

I daresay there was a bit of school work attempted yesterday, it is speech-writing season after all.  They have chosen their topics now the laborious practice begins.  I have witnessed them working with their friends on snow days as well, on a group project or helping each other catch up.  I think (hope) they are getting the true value of the balance I want for no-bus days.  

Now that they have firmly decided upon their high school, they will be the bus kids indeed, and there will be no need for argument as to whether or not they will go to school on any given snow day.  They have decided to attend West Hill Secondary School a half hour away, wowee!! Daily bus rides will be new to them, especially the fact that they will have to be ready and out the door for 7:30 A.M. every day! (we tend to find 8:59 a.m. to be a stretch, just saying) 

I have a feeling they will truly relish no-bus days once they get a taste for their commute.   I am happy for them either way, and I will still always have baking goodies hiding for just such an occasion - the kitchen mess is worth having a day off from packing lunch kits!  

I remember these days...

                                   Scientist Claire making slime:

              Architect Cass building cardboard mansions for her toys:

 Cupcake calamity:

All in all, my experience with snow days is as with any other day: Seize The Day!    Carpe diem ~ at school or not at school, bus or no-bus, make the day count, fill it with laughter and fun,  and do what you gotta do.  

Even if it's a case of no-trains - when stuck in a hotel for six extra days, knit socks!  

Nod to my Mom and her friend who traveled from Florida to New York City for a craft show last weekend and to see some sights, and ended up getting snowed in!  They have been storm-stayed at their hotel, even Broadway was shut down - there was a street curfew for cars so that the snow plows could try to dig out New York, NY.   But they knitted... and we all get new socks yay!  They are on their way back to Florida now, if the train ever gets them out of the huge snow on the north east coast. Safe travels Mom! 

Article & Photos © Natalie Richardson 2016

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