I think it was when my son took the bag of Goldfish and swung it wildly around and over his head. As those yellow, smiling cheddar delights flew through the kitchen air and landed on the unwashed floor; as he solemnly began tracking down every last piece of horrified snack food; as he lay on his stomach, nose-to-tile, the better to absorb crumbs into every pore of his sweater, jeans, and hair, it hit me.
I am not stopping him because I am just relieved he is occupied with something.
Were that scene to be set to screenplay or crime fiction, the italics would read: Day Three – Nemo Found Me and Won’t Let Me Outside.
I had been dreading the weekend storm since I heard about it, which was on or about Thursday. A brazen lack of awareness about significant news events has proved to be a side effect of my life as a mother of young children. I’m not sure my television gets any station other than Disney. I take it on faith that southern Maine still receives local news broadcasts, and I just hope I’ll overhear an adult conversation that includes the important bits.
And so it was that I arrived at my cubicle and caught a co-worker marveling at the feet of snow we were predicted to get. Surely I misunderstood, I reassured myself. I’m mishearing things as sympathy pain for my son’s recent ear infection, I soothingly whispered into the wind tunnel behind my forehead.
Alas, weather.com, cnn.com, and even people.com confirmed that massive amounts of snow were on the horizon. Armed with the facts, I did what any mother worth her leftover baby weight does: I went to Shaw’s. Then Wal-Mart.
Friday dawned, as we all know, in a non-dawny sort of way. The snow had already started falling, and human activity was already canceled. School was canceled, driving was canceled, Starbucks was canceled.
I gathered my children. I looked them each – meaningfully – in the eye. I told them stuff was about to get real, and they’d best do me the solid of not behaving like complete animals. We fist-pumped and went to our separate corners to get our minds right.
By 11:30 that morning, I had organized the playroom, purged their outgrown clothes, vacuumed, done two loads of laundry, and prepared lunch. I was exhausted and plum out of ideas for the next 60-70 hours. Then I remembered the bowling set.
Remember the trip to Wal-Mart? In a stroke-of-genius move, I spent that discount spree purchasing a plastic bowling set. With the afternoon closing in, I began instruction in the finer art of knocking things over with a ball. Not to brag, but my kids caught on quickly.
We knocked pins over in the dining room, the playroom, the upstairs hall, and the downstairs hall. It wasn’t long before my kids signaled their ability to “transfer” knowledge. Soon they were knocking over books, plates of food, stools, and each other. They thought it was hilarious and they didn’t want me involved. I let it roll.
As the hours cooped up indoors stretched into days, I let them push even more boundaries. We baked a dessert I like to call a “brookie,” because it’s a combination brownie-cookie. They played “chase the sibling” around the living room table. I tested how many movies I could get them to watch at once.
I would love to say that Nemo, The Blizzard of Our Lives, taught my family how beautiful it is to be stripped of distraction and granted uninterrupted time together. I would love to say that I cherished every moment I spent wondering “now what?”. But all I can say is this:
To all you kids out there, if you ever had some crazy idea about something you’d like to try at home, wait for the next storm. Fifteen minutes in, ask either parent for permission to make that idea a reality, or at least a test case. I guarantee you’ll get a shrug and a “go ahead” hand wave in response.
Abby Diaz grew up in Falmouth and lives there again, because that’s how life works. She blogs at abbysleftovers.blogspot.com and hellogiggles.com/abby-diaz, and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Abby on Twitter: @AbbyDiaz1.