My cell phone and landline phone rang simultaneously this morning at 6:45 a.m., which could only mean one thing: snow day for my daughter. Sabrina knew it, too, because she came zooming into our bedroom and when I told her the news she said, and I quote, “Yipppppeeeeeee!” Soon after, my son’s teacher emailed to say that Max’s school was also cancelled. Of course, he had a similar reaction — especially because today is his birthday.
I looked out the window. It was the good kind of snow: large, fluffy flakes falling softly and sticking to the trees and ground. Winter wonderland kind of snow. No cars had yet driven down our street and a white blanket covered everything, including the yard we hadn’t raked in weeks. Beautiful.
Over on Facebook, some fellow working mom friends were panicking. “They’ve closed all schools… they expect 1-3 inches of snow. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” wrote one. “Of course there’s a snow day the one time I give the sitter the morning off,” noted another.
I had to get to work and I wasn’t sure our own sitter was going to show up, but I wasn’t particularly worried. Snowy days like this make me feel peaceful in a way that few things in life do.
In these iEverything times, there’s not much left that humans can’t control other than the biggies—natural disasters, international conflict, global warming, precipitation, Lindsay Lohan. Ditto for when your baby will be born; due dates, as every parent know, are a rough estimate. Doctors also can’t tell you for sure whether or not your baby will be healthy, as I learned the day after Max was born and had seizures. An MRI revealed that he’d had a stroke, news that both shocked and devastated me and my husband. “Babies can have strokes?” I gasped to the pediatric neurologist.
We were catapulted into a parenting world filled only with worry and fear, one in which guidelines for when babies should babble and toddle caused more anxiety. The stroke damaged both sides of Max’s baby brain, and doctors didn’t know whether he would ever walk or talk, or what kind of cognition he’d have. Soon, he’d be diagnosed with cerebral palsy. My husband and I did everything we could: We got Max a ton of therapies (by age 2, he had 10 per week). We tried experimental stuff, too, including hyperbaric oxygen treatment in which one of us would lie in a narrow glass tube cuddling Max as 100 percent pure oxygen poured in, which theoretically could invigorate dormant parts of his brain. At six, Max got a stem cell therapy transplant at Duke University, one of the few kids to receive one in the United States.
Try as we did, though, there was so much we couldn’t control. Like when Max would crawl (2 years old) then finally and miraculously walk (3 years old). Or when he would say his first word (five years old). Or when he’d start to understand concepts like today, yesterday and tomorrow (this year). As much as I ached for my son to do things, I couldn’t make them happen. It took me many years and tears to accept that Max would proceed on his own timelines, and nobody else’s. He’s made amazing progress; today he can ride a special bicycle and speak a bunch of words, and uses a speech app on his iPad to help. The reading and cognition are coming along.
I’ve progressed, too, no longer the wreck of a human being I was during Max’s younger years. What’s helped most is learning to let go, and not just visions of what my child “should” be. I like a neat house, but having kids and a job and occasionally a life means that at times our home looks like a wrecking ball has whooshed through it. I can choose to spend most of my free time cleaning and de-cluttering, or having fun my kids. I choose the kids. I also like schedules, but when a top-notch doctor has an unexpected opening to see Max I’ll gladly rearrange everything and get him in there. At times, I still stress out as much as the next mom , but not anywhere as much as I used to.
Snow days are a reminder to me: Slow down. You can’t control everything. You might as well relax and enjoy nature’s show.
Our trusty sitter did show up (lucky me, I know) and I headed to the train station. There were major delays but I’d come prepared with a good book. Later at work, I called home. “Happy snow day birthday!” I told Max, and he laughed. Sabrina grabbed the phone. “I played outside with Max and we made a snowman!” she gushed. “We did tomatoes for eyes, a carrot for a nose, and blueberries for the mouth! And I gave him a scarf! And a name — Snowmanny!” She sounded ecstatic. I wished I’d been there to play with them, but… not something I could control. I had to go to work. I said I’d try to get home early.
After we hung up, I thought back to snow days from my childhood and I got the warm fuzzies. There was one major storm when I was 8 that closed schools down for a week. I could still remember the thrill of walking out of the lobby door of our apartment building and into a mound of snow that came up to my head.
Then I went back to work, feeling that all was OK in the world.