Suburban Snapshots

Tundra Parenting

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Linds, I would rather spend a hundred bucks a day and be out of the house than spend one more breath telling Anna to put her goddamned skateboard away."

That's what I said to my friend who asked if taking Anna on hotel overnights was getting pricey. I have a limited supply of spending money but I also have a limited supply of sanity, and one is a lot harder to replenish.

The snow itself hasn't bothered me this winter. It's everywhere, it's getting dirty, it won't stop. I hold my breath backing out of the driveway between towering banks. The repercussions of the snow are killing us all. Steve has been at work almost constantly for what feels like a month. I don't camp, but I've learned to keep the home fires burning (literally), I can use the pull-start on the snowblower, and am prepared to cook dinner even under the threat of power outages. I like showing Anna that these things can usually be handled, that Daddy's not the only one who knows his way around the power equipment. I enjoy the camaraderie among neighbors that can only exist under circumstances like the ones we've had—I'll trade you a roof rake for a six-pack and hey, park yourself on my snow couch and have one with me.

As the snow leads to school closures things get more complicated. I still have to work, and the driveway has to get cleared and the fire stoked and dinner cooked, I can't entertain the girl who's standing behind me in pajamas during a video conference smiling at my co-workers, elbow-deep in a bag of Goldfish. Steve can't come home, and when he is home he has to sleep, and when he's not sleeping he has to clear the snow from the roof, build a path through the yard for our dogs, figure out if he can defrost the exhaust fan in the bathroom. He's working hard and I'm working hard and I can't ask him to do more, though the cheese that's burnt on the pan he used to make nachos waits in the sink, threatening to undo me. I'm not a neat freak by any stretch, but I prefer order in confinement.

The messes never end. We are all cooped up; piles of blankets and pillows from middle-of-the-night comings and goings sit on the couch, muddy boots block the back door from opening, sand and splinters leave trails everywhere, dishes linger, recycling overtakes my countertop, Anna entertains herself with anything she can reach, and I can't spend my day reminding her to pick up one before taking out the next just as I can only ask Steve to wash his nacho pan so many times before the sound of my voice gets on my own last nerve. I don't have the stamina to sit through another episode of Liv & Maddie or drag a kid who insists she doesn't need a coat through a crowded grocery store.

We've been given six feet of snow and brutal cold, and only these last few days have seen consistent sunshine. So we escape. Instead of clenching my teeth and sweeping four times a day, we find a cheap hotel with a pool, and Anna and I leave. When I'm not watching her indiscriminately scatter her belongings around the house or badgering her to eat something with an iota of nutrition, when we're bobbing in a hot tub or watching bad cable on a hotel bed, things are just easier. I guess that's obvious. Both of our attitudes improve, the scenery is different, the soap smells nicer, even Goldfish taste better from cups I don't have to wash. Steve misses having us around, but he also needs the space to work on things at home.

This is how we've been getting by lately. I know there are worse circumstances and better parenting. Right now I'm just trying to make it to her April vacation.