She started as soon as the snow started falling.
Daddy! Can we go outside and play in the snow?
It’s still snowing.
Maybe after. We’ll see.
I knew she had her hooks deep into this snow day and wanted nothing more than to jump into the yard like a drunk elf on a trampoline. I could feel it. I also knew that “we’ll see”s only last a short while.
She asked a few times more and the extreme cold of the next day’s weather kept it from being a viable option. She stayed inside that day, but only after the promise that we could go out the next. So I made that promise.
I like to think that I have a similar mindset to my kids. I like toys and playing games and all of that. But there are certain childhood likes that fade over time. Snow is one of them. As adults, our relationship with snow changes through the years. What started out as a fun thing you threw at your friends is now the stuff you have to shovel out of the driveway and is the reason you have to bring a second pair of shoes to the gym. It’s a salty, slushy mess of misery and the last thing you want to do is stay in it when you pay to live indoors.
Not to a nine year old, though. Nope. Drunk elf on a trampoline.
We finally made it to the big snow day and it was already starting to get dark despite the early time of day. All my daughter wanted to do was run around making snow angels and throwing snowballs.
Now this is the part where I’m supposed to say how I saw the world through her eyes and it was so beautiful. I can talk about how I could feel the youthful zest for life and wanted to hold on to it as long as I could. I could say all sorts of stuff like that.
Honestly, though. All l wanted to do was go inside. It was awful. Snow is awful. Sorry. Looks good on TV. Stings my skin in person.
Yet, Olivia would never know that. For the short time we were out there, she saw nothing but fun and excitement. We tossed snow at each other and tried building a snowman. Everything you’d see from a Norman Rockwell painting was right there in real life.
That’s not to say that I hated being in the snow with her. I didn’t. It just wouldn’t have been my choice for how to spend half an hour. I had fun, but she had much more fun. My daughter chose it and I went along with it. To a nine year old, playing in the snow means a lot more that it does to a forty year old.
The thing I feel that we as parents sometimes forget is just how important adults were to us as kids. I remember how exciting it was to have a grown up as my captive audience. Whether it was for an improve performance or watching a cartoon I like, it felt like I was auditioning for the queen. So when my daughter forces me to watch her do a dance show that she’s totally making up on the spot, I know it’s the most important thing in the world to her.
I’m reminded of these moments when they happen. It’s the look she’ll give when she comes running home excited about the new level she unlocked on her school’s math online game. Settling in at my computer, she’ll punch away on the keys, looking over her shoulder every little while to make sure I’m watching. It’s the same face she makes when she’s showing me her favorite Youtube videos or LOL Surprise Dolls. It’s the face that tells me my presence in that moment is what’s most important.
I want to say that this is a lot of what parenting is about. But it’s more a story of family and friendship that shows a combined effort from both sides. For every Liv & Maddie episode I’ve sat through, she’s had to feign interest in a Japanese wrestling match. We all make the same sacrifice.
We didn’t stay outside too long that day. In fact, I had expected us to be out longer but then the ice rain started. It was like a gift from above telling us to go inside.
On the way in, I grabbed a handful of snow and waited as Olivia wandered around for a final knee-deep march through the yard. When she finally came in, I could see she was holding a snowball. As soon as she threw hers, I threw mine. She broke into hysterics.
I knew it! I knew you had one!
She came in for some hot chocolate and we all sat in the living room to watch TV. It was Norman Rockwell all over the place.
Sure, snow wasn’t all that fun for me, but it was brief and kept her smiling for the rest of the day. All I had to do was have a fun time outside for the time I was there. That’s all that matters. It’s not about how long you’re doing it. The goal is to make happy moments and positive memories. Better to spend ten minutes happily throwing snowballs than an hour yelling at them to fix their scarf.
Anyone can make those happy memories when it’s something fun. The pictures of us at Disney World or birthday parties are easy. Those are some fun times. It’s the all-day soccer clinics, early morning doll fashion shows, and frigid snow days where you really earn your parenting pay.
After all, it won’t be long until she’s digging out her own car and cleaning the salt off of her welcome mats. When that day comes, there’s a good chance she’ll have a kid begging her to go play in the frozen tundra. I like to hope that she’ll go because she’ll remember how I did.