An ode to the long-lost snow day - Denny Scott editorial
Some wild weather last week led to not one, but two inclement weather days at local schools, leaving me working from home on Monday and Wednesday encouraging my daughter to take part in at-home assignments and log into her online classes when necessary.
While inclement weather days (formerly known as snow days before global warming saw us facing things like fog days and ice days as often as snow days) meant something for me in my wild youth, they mean something different for my daughter: staring at a tablet screen.
Snow days don’t represent a needed-break from school anymore in the depths of the darkest months of the year, they just mean that school changes to its online mode.
In my youth, snow days were pure bliss. I didn’t see my first snow day until I was in Grade 7, after a move saw me attending Huron Centennial Public School near Brucefield. Those first impromptu breaks were glorious. Not only was I not at school, but I had just hit that age when I could be left home alone, which meant I spent the day doing whatever I wanted. My lunch was whatever I wanted (that I could make without the stove) and, at that time, I was neighbours with a friend from school, so we could hang out and play video games until our respective parents came home, if that was the order of the day.
For a teenager, it was glorious and, even now, I love those days when I can work from home. Not because I played video games, but definitely because I can work in comfortable clothes and really flex my culinary muscle for lunch.
Snow days are more than a chance to blow off school: they’re a chance to spend time as a family for younger children and a right of passage for teens and pre-teens. They mark an important milestone in growing up.
Now I’ve been told, by some friends in other school boards, that snow days do still exist out there in the province. Children, pre-teens and teenagers are given the chance to take a mental break from school and recover a little bit of their free time. That’s not the case here. I also know, for a fact, that not everyone puts the emphasis on keeping their kids in remote learning that I do. Some parents choose a more relaxed day for their kids, as is their right. I just can’t bring myself to do that. Maybe it’s the drive to see my daughter be her educational best, or maybe it’s the tiny sporran-clutching, penny-pinching Scot that lives in my brain that hates to see tax dollars wasted, but, as long as there’s an opportunity for Mary Jane to keep learning and associate with her classmates, I feel it’s important that she do so.
Because of that, Mary Jane may never get to benefit from snow days the way I did.
Beyond the enjoyment of a snow day (which could mean anything from tobogganing to watching The Price is Right and Maury),
those winter days off serve a crucial function: I was able to take some control over my own life.
I didn’t realize how important that was until I got to post-secondary school and suddenly had the ability to choose what I would do with my days (outside of classes and working at a call centre or restaurant). When you’re a kid, your day is pretty much decided from when you wake up to when you go to bed. Sure, you can choose what you do at recess or what you watch on television or whether you grab the Crazy Carpet or the GT Racer, but you get up when your parents tell you to, you eat when your parents or teachers tell you to, you go to the classes you’re told to go to and you go to bed when you’re told to.
That never really ends - you trade a parent/teacher for a boss (even if you’re self-employed) and you start telling yourself when you have to get up, even on the weekend. You’re always answering to someone, even if it is your own sense of accomplishment…. Except for snow days.
For some reason, when a snow day rolls around, as long as I get the driveway blown out, I don’t feel that push to catch up on the Honey Do list or the backlog of DIY projects. There’s something about that unexpected free day that makes it feel like you can put it all off until tomorrow. That kind of reprieve is, mentally, a glass of cold water in the middle of a desert.
At least it was until the advent of remote education. Now snow days are just another workday, only now I have a boss at home
who I have to keep interested in online learning.