Parenting in the Polar Vortex

by Kevin Blackerby

Courtesy Rebecca Bennett

Is it just me or have we had a lot of snow days recently? And by a lot, I mean the amount that makes my wife shout at the radio, “You have got to be kidding me! Closed  again?!” She does this in the morning while I’m still sleeping, which makes it extra special.

Between snowfalls and cold temperatures that only Canucks would be comfortable in, we have had a heck of a winter. Prince George’s county covers over 400 square miles so ice in Accokeek can cause headaches in Hyattsville when the Prince George’s County Public School system errs on the side of caution. And errs, and errs, and errs. No parent will forget the unscheduled six-day weekend we had this January. Lately, I don’t know which has taken more of a hit from having the Blackerby boys home day after day — my leave time or my sanity.

So what do you do when faced with another full day of activities for the kids while “working” from home? Never fear: The next time Mother Nature comes calling here are some sure-fire Blackerby-household approved ways of keeping your little ones entertained while maintaining household bliss.

The first thing you must do is figure out who is going to stay home. When faced with this decision, my wife and I play “rock, paper, scissors.” We have found this to be the easiest way to decide, and besides, my wife  always does rock first. In 11 years of marriage, always rock. Figure out your partner’s pattern and you’re halfway there.

If you are the one staying home, start out by explaining to your children how things were much different when you were young. These stories are best if you begin them with, “When I was your age…”. For example, “When I was your age, we didn’t take school off. We walked through snow three feet deep uphill both ways to go to school. We went to school every day, weekends and nights too, [AP ITAL] and most holidays.” Make sure to embellish as much as possible. I usually include a wildlife encounter of some kind, like a polar bear or muskrat attack, just to liven them up.

Games are always a good way to pass the time. We like to play a game I invented called Hide and Hide. It’s like Hide and Seek, only they hide and I don’t seek. We play this around nap time. I give them a 30-minute head start. Eventually, I’ll drape a blanket over them when I happen to spot them slumped behind the La-Z-Boy. That’s two birds with one stone. You’re welcome.

Another favorite activity of ours is to learn a new song. This is a fun and energetic exercise as you can learn the song while dancing around the house. It can also take up twice as much time if you are like me and are not that careful picking songs. Our last song was “Timber,” by Pitbull and Ke$ha. We learned that one in the morning and then spent the afternoon unlearning it after Mommy got home and really read the lyrics.

Still have some time to fill? Go outside and play! This activity eats up crazy amounts of time, since it takes no less than 45 minutes to get them ready in their snow gear, only to spend 15 minutes sledding down the hill at Hyattsville Middle School before we pack it in because they need to use the restroom. Repeat as necessary, and at the end of the day remind yourself about how much you appreciate your children’s teachers and caregivers. I know I do.

Polar Vortex, I can’t say I have enjoyed your stay. But I do think that you would make a heck of a name for a band.

Kevin Blackerby lives in Hyattsville with his wife and two young boys. When he is not working at his day job for a nonprofit, he is a stand-up comedian, serious birthday-party planner, and all around silly dad. He is one of several Hyattsville parents who will be writing columns on a rotating basis.