Yup. That pretty much sums up the day when Austin decided to close its schools on Thursday. My phone was buzzing all of the previous day with emails from the school, the preschool, the school district and winter storm warnings. Apparently the freezing rain would only get worse. Even state and federal offices would shut down.
Ice is a problem down here, and with the many hills, bridges, and overpasses in the area, traveling on the road becomes treacherous, especially for school buses. I get that. I want my kids home safe with me too. And honestly, not going out on a cold and blustery morning to drop off my kids was just fine by me.
But when we woke the next day, the day of the supposed winter storm, this happened instead.
Sure, it hovered in the low 30’s all morning, but it reached a high of 43. It was windy and chilly, but the ice that was forecasted to disrupt travel was nowhere in sight. Geez, people, overreact much? Meteorologists, I tell ya. They’re the only people I know who get to keep their job despite being wrong half the time.
The kids were of course over the moon to be home. No school, yay! We can sleep in! (They didn’t). We can stay in our pajamas! (Naturally.) I would’ve shared their enthusiasm except for that pesky little thing called a deadline. Ah yes, the age-old working parent’s dilemma: How do I watch the kids and write the pieces that were due to my client at the same time?
And today, I figured it out - HAVE FREAKIN’ AMAZING KIDS!
Okay, okay, I know, I know, I deserved that eye-roll because every parent says that about their kids. Believe me, my kids are a pain in my ass most days, but today, I have to give credit where credit is due. Last night I said to them: “Hey, I know it’s great to stay home from school, but the only way that it’s going to work well tomorrow is that you find a way to play well together because mommy has to work. I’m sorry that I can’t hang out with you guys, because you know I’d really, really love to, but I just can’t since it’s my regular work day and my client needs something from me. Will you try to play well with each other?”
I threw the words out there, not really knowing if they’d stick. They both nodded, which isn’t exactly binding, so I didn’t keep my hopes up.
But HOLY SHIT THEY DID IT! They totally did it! I was amazed at just how much and how well they played together. Most days, by 9:30AM, someone was already screaming at the other, but today, the stars must have aligned because not only was there barely an argument, they actually enjoyed one another’s company!
I set up shop at the dining table to keep an eye on them, thankful that I could usually tune out chaos, but apart from a few “look at this, mommy” interruptions to show me the results of their various creative pursuits, I was able to immerse myself in work while they did at play. I looked up occasionally to marvel at them: They’re still playing? And of course I had to take pictures. Evidence, ya know. Because I still can’t believe that it happened.
Naturally, they made a mess, but who cares? They were actually playing with their toys and giggling! (And they happily put these away afterwards.)
Little Miss patiently explained “Go Fish” to her three-year-old sister, and they harmoniously played a game or two together. (This was about the time I was pinching myself.)
And their new favorite thing to do together? Clean up their mess to surprise me!
Yes, “for real,” as Pickle would say. Don’t hate me; I don’t even know how this became a regular thing, but you won’t find me complaining about this new “game” of theirs, where they would disappear for a long while together, then they’d come find us, have us close our eyes while they led us to their bedroom, the living room or playroom and yell: “SURPRISE!”
We would find toys and craft items back in their spots, books put away, beds made, clothes in hampers...it’s the best kind of surprise, and I love that both parties actually derive so much pleasure from this. For me, I’m just so delighted and grateful for their effort, and for them, they’re just so proud of their contribution and happy to see us happy.
Today, Little Miss trembled with excitement as they led me to their bedroom, where Pickle gleefully announced, “Ta-dah! We cleaned our room!” but immediately added: “But don’t look under our beds!”
Fair enough. I didn’t. With six- and three-year-olds, you figure out pretty quickly to steer clear of the gift horse’s mouth.
Here’s another thing that blew me away today. Remember how I always long for them to play outside? Today, after running in circles around me in the afternoon and jumping over hurdles that they had purposely made for themselves in the living and dining rooms, I finally kicked them out of the house. “If you want to run around and play, get your shoes and jacket on, and do it outside!” Like normal kids, I added in my head.
After some minor protesting, they did comply. The clear blue sky was a little deceptive; no matter how beautiful it looked, it was still a little chilly. I expected them to come back in within five minutes, whining about the cold. But they didn’t. In fact, they stayed outside for what felt like hours, and played and played and played and played. Who are these kids???!
My view of them just hanging out in the front yard from where I was working; don’t mind the phone reflection – I never claimed I was a pro photographer.
In the evening, at their bedtime, they crawled into bed by 7:15PM, and after I shut their bedroom door behind me, no one called out to me or came back outside to use the bathroom, to have more water, to give me one last hug, to ask “what’s that sound?”, to check if daddy’s home yet. On a day where they played hard, they also crashed hard.
I’d like to call this a miracle of a day, but really, if I think about it, a lot has to do with the fact that the girls are getting older. As much as it pains me to see that cute baby part of them go, on days like this, having older, independent kids completely saved the day. They had a wonderful time away from school, and I got my work done.
“I think we’re finally reaching that sweet spot,” My Guy said to me, “The girls are getting to the age where they’ll give us five or six really good years of being pretty cool kids.”
Curious, I asked: “Five or six? Why just five or six?”
“Well, then they become teens.”
“Oh. Right.” Tumultuous, tempestuous teens. Shudder.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. If the next five or six years will give us more days like today, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of them first.