Monday, February 02, 2015

Snow Day Milestones

We’ve been battered by a couple of significant storms over the last week or so, which means we’ve had some snow days.  But the meaning of snow days is changing.

A few years ago, a snow day meant that no “work” got done, and we probably either watched tv or read.  By late afternoon, the cabin fever would get pretty bad.  Depending on how severe the weather was, sometimes we could play outside, and sometimes not.

Snow days aren’t like that now.  

Technology has changed, for one thing.  As more “work” has moved online, I find myself spending more of each snow day dealing with emails and the like.  Whether that’s progress or backsliding depends on your angle to the universe.

To the extent that we have to stay inside, technology has greatly increased the number of ways to pass time.  I believe in the hand-me-down approach to previous generations of technology, so at this point, the kids have far more possible distractions than they once did.  We have to ration screen time, so it doesn’t take over completely, but it does help with the cabin fever.  It also reduces the amount of television watched, which strikes me as a net gain.  Even better, the kids have reached a level of fluency on their respective musical instruments such that practicing isn’t the hopeless chore it once was.  Snow days make excellent practice time.

We still play outside, when it isn’t awful.  Last week I joined the kids in the backyard throwing a football in the snow -- this being New England, we yelled “Gronk!” at every exertion, laughing ourselves stupid -- and then building a snow fort.  The Girl was amazed when I mentioned that snow forts existed when I was a kid; I think she thinks we were too busy fighting off mastodons and discovering fire to worry about such things.  I told her that we didn’t have internet, and the tv only offered four channels, but we had plenty of snow.  In that setting, snow forts were almost a foregone conclusion.  I taught them the old “pour water on it to give it a coating of ice” trick. which they enjoyed immensely.  Now the backyard is amply protected on the north side, so if any marauding hordes come down from Vermont, they’ll get what for.

But this week brought a moment every Dad savors.

“Dad, can I work the snowblower this time?”

Yes, son, you can.

It’s almost as good as the first time he wanted to mow the lawn.

Experienced driveway warriors know that snowblowers are only half the battle.  They work well on the stretch, but they often run aground at the bottom, where the snowplow piles high the densely packed stuff.  As The Boy guided the snowblower over flat part of the driveway, more or less evenly, I took a shovel to the barrier range between the driveway and the street.  (Noise from the snowblower also masked the increasingly purple soliloquy that I may or may not have issued as the plow drove past, mocking my labors by rebuilding the barrier range.  Small favors.) We finished at almost the same time, and both emerged uninjured.  

Part of me misses the pure isolation of the older model snow day, but I have to admit the new model has its charms.  In the old model, emails could build up like the barrier range at the end of the driveway, and a formidable challenge would await upon returning to work.  In the new model, it’s easier to keep the pile to a reasonable level.  And cabin fever is overrated.  Besides, any time The Boy wants to take charge of the snowblower, he has my blessings.

As long as we can still build snow forts.  Gadgets are great, but there’s no app for that yet.  I’ll just hold on to those a little longer.