I love school. I loved school as a kid, and now, as a parent, I really, really, really love school. Maybe I don’t say it often enough, but to all those teachers out there: thank you. Thank you not only for teaching my children about sharing and good citizenship and, yeah, OK, how to read and write, but most of all thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping them out of my house five days a week.
Because here’s a life truth I always forget until it whacks me in the face: When your kids are little, it’s really, really hard to get any work done when they’re unexpectedly stuck at home with you. I know this because Friday is a snow day in D.C., and for the past hour and a half, I’ve been sitting here in the office off my bedroom, trying to begin a post about the “painful layoffs” Chicago Public Schools are announcing Friday afternoon, but I have yet to get through the first paragraph because my 6-year-old has burst in—once again—to tell me that his 3-year-old sister just clocked him on the head with a triangular Magna-Tile.
“Just stay away from her,” I say. “If you’re not in the same room as her, she won’t be able to hit you.”
“But I didn’t do anything! I was just sitting there and she attacked me!” (Fact check: Partially true.)
“OK, so why don’t you go in your own room and close your door so that she won’t be able to attack you? Why don’t you read a book or do Legos?”
“I don’t understand why you can’t just come downstairs and tell her not to attack me!”
“Because, sweetie, for the 10,000th time, I am trying to work.”
My son doesn’t find this explanation particularly compelling.
When I am not trying to work, I am refreshing the “Predictions for next week: Schools closed until what day?” thread on our local lunatic-parents Web forum, in which extremely informed-seeming commenters are suggesting that D.C. schools might not open again until next Thursday. Thursday? Seriously???! What year is this, 1528?
During the last Snowpocalypse, in 2010, I had an infant who napped three times a day, and being stuck inside for almost a week was almost fun—a license just to sit around doing little to nothing. Now that my kids are older and need constant stimulation and/or refereeing, the prospect of a week trapped inside while my husband is in Iowa is … less fun.
My father always says that the two things everyone thinks they can do is open a restaurant and write a novel. On this already-claustrophobic snow day, I will add the much-maligned profession of teaching to that list. Teaching is damn hard. I spent two college summers trying my hand at shaping young minds, one as a teacher and one as a camp counselor in Siberia, so I can say with some confidence that I’d be a better brain surgeon than a teacher—and you definitely don’t want me attempting the former.
This Wednesday—the day before schools more or less shut down in anticipation of the storm—I worked my monthly duty day in my daughter’s preschool, assisting the eminently capable teacher with toddler-related logistics: washing hands, wiping butts, pouring out water, serving a peanut-free snack. It was supremely unskilled labor that lasted a grand total of three hours, nothing that should have interfered with my ability to put in a mostly full workday afterward.
But here’s the thing: After three hours in a room full of 3-year-olds, there is no way I’m going to get any work-work done. There’s no way, in fact, that I am going to do anything except maybe lie on the couch and catch up on Vanderpump Rules. Because being in a small room with that many small kids on a day when it’s too cold to go outside, even for a mere three hours, is enough to sap the life force out of me, out of anyone, in fact, who isn’t preternaturally forbearing and actually trained to deal with those insane little creatures.
So as this blizzard approaches, I’m just going to surrender to the chaos in my house and possibly stream a few movies before our electricity goes out. And I will promise myself that, when school is back in session, I will appreciate it more: the simplicity of dropping my son off in a fun, nurturing place where someone else—someone far more patient and skilled than I—can tell him to please listen when an adult is speaking and stop eating spaghetti with his fingers and, who knows, maybe even teach him a thing or two.