For any readers who were wondering, I haven’t died, or become a leper and lost my typing fingers, or any other colorful fate. I had decided, some time ago, that I would only be posting when I actually have something to say; and that has proven to be “not that often” over the past several months. As well, this thing called life keeps intruding, pesky thing that it is. This is not an apology, but perhaps an explanation; and unless further intermissions are the result of some dramatic cause (which would get its own post), this explanation will be the last of its kind. Moving on!
I went to work yesterday to cloudy skies and clear streets. Silly guy that I am, I had paid no attention to the incoming weather reports—I long ago turned off the notifications for the weather app on my phone, and the last time I watched a weather report on television, they were giving alerts for an incoming comet that was scaring the dinosaurs. No, scratch that joke; I have long since made it clear that I’m not an evolutionist, so I should be joking about the Flood instead.
I knew something was up when coworkers started bailing out of the office at an alarming rate. It wasn’t until after the boss told me to leave early if it got bad out, that I looked out the window and saw snow. Lots of snow. It wasn’t falling fast, but it was relentless. Within an hour, every visible surface was covered, and the 24-hour staff who nominally work under me (I’m not the supervisor, but I was the closest thing on duty) were refusing to drive anywhere, so I took the boss up on the offer. Throughout the night, it was like an avalanche in slow motion, burying everything, but so politely that you could hardly be angry about it.
We topped out at about fourteen inches today. That isn’t much for places like Minnesota or Maine, but it’s quite respectable for West Virginia. The last time I saw a foot of snow here, it brought four of its friends with it, all in one night, and collapsed twenty-three buildings around town. That was in 1998, and if I may say so, we’ve had an easy time of it since. As a consequence, no one is particularly happy with the current state of affairs, if the level of complaining to be seen on Facebook is any indicator. Most of the complaining, of course, is about that perennial fan favorite: School closures.
Is it really that bad? With apologies to every parent I know, I don’t think it is. If they were out for weeks on end, I might think so, but so far this year my kids have only missed one complete week of school, plus a smattering of other days. In a mountainous state, that’s a fair bargain.
The problem that we parents, all of us, have with snow days is not the slow-motion avalanche I mentioned. It’s the second slow-motion avalanche: that gradual accumulation of cabin fever in the kids, and sometimes in ourselves. It threatens to bury us, too.
I knew I was in trouble today when I found myself sending the kids out of the room for the simple crime of being bouncy. It’s not always wrong to take a breather; sometimes it’s necessary. I knew, though, that I wasn’t at that point; I knew I was only doing it because I was short-tempered. I was the one who was in the wrong this time.
That’s what happens, isn’t it?
When you’re a parent, you’re in the business of being right. You have to be. You are the authority figure, and what you do is going to shape your child’s view on right and wrong. The sad side effect is that when you’re always right, you’re always right. You come to a place where you don’t stop to question whether there’s a better way.
I don’t know what decisions you might have to face as a parent. There are enough pitfalls to go around, so I couldn’t deign to advise you on yours, because I don’t know which ones you have to navigate. For me, today it was the choice between pushing my kids away, or spending valuable time with them. I started to push, but then I stopped, thought about it, and pulled them back. After all, they aren’t getting any younger, and I have precious little time to shape their lives. This is something I’ve been challenging myself to work on. I still have my own ambitions, and still chase them, but for the moment, I’ll live with the reality that my time is divided, and that they deserve their share of it. They only have one father, and that’s me.
But, you, Other Parents, I will offer you one piece of advice tonight: Stop and think. In whatever situation you are, stop and think. Think about the decision you have in front of you, and what each option will mean. Before you act, think. How will your choices affect your child, affect you, affect the world around you? When you deal with your children, you deal directly with the future. Choose wisely!
Maybe that advice isn’t for you, because you already live it. Good for you! Pass that wisdom on to someone who needs it. And if you are the one who needs it, then, there is no time like now to start. Then, maybe, your own avalanches won’t have a chance to bury you.