Once upon a time, I lived in a cute little house on the edge of a forest in Maine, and when my husband was deployed I’d wrap my baby in a blanket and drive to the grocery store in a blizzard just get a carton of ice cream. The store would be open, of course. Nothing slowed us down in Maine. Now that we’re doing a tour in the south, though, I realize I like the way Southerners handle winter, too. Here, cold weather days are an event. They’re exciting. They’re something to marvel about with the other parents while we stand on the sidewalk with our hands shoved deep inside our fleece-lined pockets and wait for the school bell to ring. If cold weather days are exciting though, you should see us in the snow. The temperature drops low, and then lower, and then suddenly snow starts falling and the roads ice over and we all fling up our hands with joy and rush back to our houses, where we stay inside until the sun comes out and the temperature climbs back up into the mid-60s again.
This seems reasonable to me. Doesn’t it to you?
Southern life is teaching me a few lessons about parenting in the winter, too. Namely, when a whole city shuts down for a snowstorm, what on earth do you DO?
- Bake: Start a batch of homemade applesauce, put a loaf of banana bread in the oven, and mix up a hearty winter soup. While snow falls quietly across your lawn, your kitchen will be warm and cheerful, and the aromas will waft through your house adding an extra layer of coziness to your indoor activities. Best of all, you’ll be ready when your kids start begging for a special Snow Day Snack…which they will definitely do.
- Feed the Birds: I discovered this by accident. If you top off your bird feeder and pull it up onto a covered porch just before a snowstorm, your patio will be full of cardinals and songbirds for the duration of the cold. There are some drawbacks to this, obviously, but watching dozens of little birds hop through the snow and flutter onto your windowsill is pretty entertaining.
- Give Your Imaginations Free Rein: Read books, play board games, watch old movies, make up family puppet shows, and pull out the art supplies. Then find ways to extend the games. If you make a palace out of wooden blocks, by all means let a dragon-puppet fly past and knock it down. Later, you’ll probably need to appoint a Royal Architect to assess the damage and help build the palace back again.
- Snow Day Science: Once you’ve exhausted your normal rotation of indoor activities, try doing a Snow Day Science Project. Fill three small bowls with equal amounts of snow. Then sprinkle one with salt, one with water, and leave one plain. Which one melts fastest? Is there any difference? What happens if you use different types of salt? What makes road salt different from table salt? How can road salt help clear ice off of the roads?
- Play Outdoors: Bundling your kids into their cold weather gear and then cleaning up the melting mess of snow when they come in is kind of a pain, but it’s worth it in the end. As long as they’re healthy and it’s not too bitterly cold, let them run in and out of the house as much as possible. They’ll catch snowflakes on their tongues and make snow angels in the garden and throw snowballs at each other, and they’ll come inside rosy-cheeked and tired, ready for quiet-time and cocoa. It’s a good trade.
- Withhold Information: Don’t tell your kids in advance that school’s been canceled. If you do (and if your kids are anything like mine), they’ll wake themselves up extra early just so they can enjoy the whole entire free day, and I guarantee the first thing they’re going to do with that free day is tiptoe into your room and jump on you. It’s much better to tell them they’ll probably have school in the morning, let them sleep late, and then surprise them with the cancellation when they wake up. (Seriously, you guys. Trust me on this one.)