Awakening - FamilyEducation

Awakening

February 08,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Awakening My entire family lives in either Maryland, or DC, so I spent a good chunk of my weekend talking with family members on the phone, and ogling the photos of "Snowmageddon 2010" that both family and friends loaded onto their Facebook pages. I felt a little left out, actually, and a little jealous. It's hard sometimes to be the only sibling who lives out-of-state, even if the big snowstorm kept everyone apart--for the weekend, at least. But our weekend definitely lacked some luster to it, and our gray, rainy, ordinary landscape seemed flat, somehow, especially given the transformation we experienced only last weekend. I think my kids were feeling the anticlimax of it all, too. Last weekend we awoke to a white winter wonderland; this weekend we got buckets of cold rain, instead, and gray skies. My kids were moody all Saturday--all the way through our trip to the science museum, and the car ride home, and the hours that made up the rest of the afternoon. And I felt unsettled, and restless and, I must confess, wished several chunks of time away--like the weeks before Spring Break, and the rest of winter, and maybe the whole semester. Grouchiness, as I reminded my kids a few times over the weekend, is very, very contagious. What we needed, I thought to myself on Saturday, was snow...or maybe, we didn't. I wasn't so sure. It seemed a little counter-intuitive to be wishing for a housebound weekend when the grumpies had settled over us like a gray, heavy cloud. But we needed something--some adventure, excitement. Visitors, maybe, to cheer up the kids? Something to carry us through February? On Sunday morning the sun came out. After Scott and I stepped in to mediate a particularly ugly Wii dispute (I don't know what happens at your house, but we've had the Wii since Christmas and it hasn't done squat to bring OUR kids together), I clipped the leash on Willa's collar and T. and I headed out for a walk, getting a head start on Scott, who was working hard to pry L. out of the house. We walked the path from the street down through the woods and on the way T. and I stopped to listen to the woodpeckers, and to the songbirds, who seemed a little more energized today than they had the last time we walked the pool path (dragging our sled through the snow). The creek, full and alive from the melted snow and rain, rushed loudly past us. There was something different in the air; maybe it was just the stark contrast between our weather last weekend and the blue skies and bare ground this weekend. But there's a certain smell to the air after the snow thaws, and a certain look to the dark, wet ground that makes me think about spring plantings and overturned soil, resting heavy and wet, on my shovel, and I realized suddenly that it was all there, right there in the woods. "Spring's coming!" T. shouted suddenly and took off, zig-zagging through the woods. We stopped at the pool, abandoned for the winter, the water brown and mucky with leaves and debris. This is just what we needed, I thought to myself. If I squinted my eyes just so and turned my head slightly to the left I could see the brown water blue again, and the pool deck dotted with picnic benches and chairs. I took a deep breath and thought about the summer, wishing we were there already. But I scolded myself for leap-frogging right over spring, and the days in-between, right ahead to summer, and the vision of my kids hurtling themselves off the side of the pool, into the water. While I ached, right then and there for summer, one of the most valuable lessons I've learned so far as a parent is never ever to wish the days away, because before too long they slip away all on their own, pulled along fast, up and away, like a kite before the string snaps. Then we have the memory, and while the ache of that is beautiful too, it's never quite the same as the reality, of what we really had, at that very moment, if we'd only known it at the time.