Snow days have such a legacy of fun attached to them, don’t they? I remember being a kid, watching the school closing ticker on the nightly news, crossing fingers on both hands (and my toes!), fervently hoping for a day at home. As a parent, snow days can be fun but they can also be… not fun? Not fun at all. It’s hard to be cooped up when the snow is so deep playing outside isn’t fun, or when it’s so cold (-30 windchills, anyone?) that playing outside is just not a good idea.
Feeling the pressure to Good Mom (™) a recent snow day (helped along by Facebook), I wracked my brain for a craft or project to do with my seven year old. He adores Pokemon (and okay in all honesty I do too) so I suggested we could make our own Pokemon cards. I was so glad he was game. Art supplies! Motor skills! Imagination! (And best of all) A much needed reduction in my parental guilt about his excessive screen time today! Woo hoo!
We sat down at the kitchen table and began designing. As he attempted to trace a design, I could hear him ramping up. He sighed. He sighed again. Then he sighed and slammed his pencil down.“I can’t do it!” he cried. “No matter what I do I can’t make this look right!” He covered his face with his hands. This is not an infrequent moment in our house. My son is driven by big ideas that often outstrip his abilities. His heart breaks and he melts down. I could feel the tears coming before I saw them drip down his face. He got up from the table, slammed his chair into place, and ran to the living room where he began to sob into the pillows.
I’d like to tell you I was patient and compassionate. I’d like to tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true. Reader, I was furious.
We had been stuck inside for hours. I had cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, and now I was trying to make a fun activity happen despite not having taken a moment of respite for myself this whole day. And he wasn’t even grateful. He was screaming. I thought about packing everything back into a drawer and just going to watch a movie in another room.
My anger in these moments is about being depleted and feeling rejected. But, I tried to tell myself, he isn’t rejecting me. He’s angry at himself. And I don’t think his ungrateful. In fact, when I tune into that voice inside, it’s not even mine. It’s an old one from my childhood.
So instead of packing things away, I steadily finished my own card (a Suicune, y’all). Then I looked again at his. I liked it. It had zany lines and shapes. It had energy. I outlined his design in dark pen and began to add color and some new elements. Eventually, what had started out as a ground energy card became a new kind of card - a combo fire and ground energy card. Perfect for volcano type Pokemon. The kind that have fire and can move mountains. Kind of like my son.
When I was done I felt calmed. I was ready to talk. I found my son still on the sofa, no longer in tears, but with that thousand yard stare you get after a good cry. I gave him the card and explained to him how I made it. He smiled and we talked about the design a little bit, deciding what we liked and what we might want to change in a future version.
When we were both silent again, I said, “You know, it’s hard to have big ideas in a young body. It’s frustrating when you can’t do what you see in your mind. But think about this. This card is one of a kind. Not one like it in the world. If we’d just given up this wouldn’t exist. And that would make the world a less interesting place. The world needs your ideas. So I hope you will remember that they’re worth working on even if you get mad or make mistakes or need help.”
We hugged and he didn’t say very much. (This often happens when I’m sure I’m nailing some life lesson. I think somewhere in my mind I want a live studio audience from the 90s to coo “awwwww" so I know I'm having some kind of impact.) The rest of the day I gave us a pass on life in general and we binged movies.
Later that day I posted both cards to my Instagram feed, joining the throng of parents showing off their Pinterest worthy snowday activities. But it’s a poor representation of our day. The truth is that we didn’t have a fun time and it involved a lot of tears. I could feel my own wounded child screaming inside when my son left the table. I found compassion for him because I found it first for her. Our inner children and our own children are like that card. Imperfect. Infinitely lovable. Always worth coming back to. Give yourself some love, parents. The world is a more interesting place when you do.