A Working Snow Day
A few months ago, my children’s school had not yet gone to remote learning. It was the end of the weekend and they were gearing up to go to school on Monday. But no, my children stayed home from school because it was a snow day. No remote learning, just stay home. That’s fine normally. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so it’s typically not a problem for me. But I understand that some people don’t have that luxury. In this day and age, many parents must stay home with the kids and work remotely (courtesy of COVID-19).
This particular day, I had planned to do a whole bunch of video and design work for The 10 Greatest Gifts Project. And then the district announced it was a snow day. I always try to have all my obligations wrapped up or finished before they get home from school so I can be present with them and not distracted. So, what do I do now?
First, one of my house rules on off days is, if you want screen time, you have to earn it. If they read for 30 minutes, they get 30 minutes of screen time. If they read for an hour, they get an hour of screen time. I typically limit the time they can earn to 2 hours. Balance the screen time with something that will stimulate their mind instead of numb it.
That’s fine when they’re reading or doing screen time, but what happens when they max that out and start craving time with me? Well, my kids are 9 and 11, so they can choose to play outside by themselves, and I can continue working. I was sitting at my computer working and noticed them in the backyard outside my window playing in the snow. Suddenly, I heard a thud outside my window. My son had thrown a snowball at my window.
I leaned into the window and made a face. He laughed and started making another snowball. Then my daughter tried throwing a snowball at me, but couldn’t get it high enough. I made a “neener neener” face and got clobbered by my son’s snowball that was perfectly positioned. I looked to the side of snowball splat and made a mean face at him, as if I was whining, “Hey….” He laughed again and got to work on another snowball. This went on for about 5 minutes. Once they didn’t see my face at the window, they started doing other things in the snow.
I realized that I can take 5 minutes here and there to give them the attention they need to continue entertaining themselves. They just needed to know that I wasn’t ignoring them all day. Later on, my daughter came into the office and showed me the picture she drew. I, of course, took a break from the screen and goggled over her beautiful picture. I asked her questions about it so that she would have a chance to tell me more about it and feel proud of herself because of the interest I was showing and positive words I was offering.
Around 3 p.m. when the sun had been out for a while, they both decided they wanted to go over to a neighbor’s driveway and shovel it for him. They had shoveled it for him before and gotten paid for their work, so they were motivated to be helpful. They worked together like a team and I snuck out the door to take some pictures of them with my phone. When they returned, I told them I was very proud of how well they did and the neighbor would be proud as well.
The point of all of this is, on a snow day when you’re working from home and the kids are trying to keep themselves entertained, there are plenty of short breaks you can take to be present for them. Here are some ideas that are easy and can be really fun:
- Take a favorite book of theirs and read a few pages to them or take turns with them (if they’re old enough) reading a page and then they read a page.
- Get two blank pieces of paper and bag of colored pencils, crayons, or markers. Each person closes their eyes and picks three colors from the bag. Whatever colors you pick, those are the colors you have to use to draw any picture you want. Everyone shows their picture when they’re done.
- Maybe while you’re making a snack or lunch, tell a Tag story. One person starts with the first sentence (“Once there was beautiful white kitten.”). The next person adds onto that sentence (The kitten was very lonely because she didn’t have a home or an owner to love her.). Keep going like this until someone ends the story.
- Take turns making silly faces and taking pictures of them with your phone’s camera. Then vote on the funniest silly face.
All of these will take 5-10 minutes, the same amount of time you might take to go to the break room to refill your coffee and chat with a co-worker for a few minutes. These simple ideas allow you to use the message tool to tell them they are important to you and the focus tool to show them that your focus is on them, even when you must work. Take those small, life-giving opportunities to build them up and inject into their day confirmation that you see them, love them, and want to spend time with them.