Snow. Ice. Wind. Missed days of school … wow, that was a winter like we haven’t had in quite a few years! Snowy winters of the past may have been challenging for us, but they brought delight to the kids. Each new snowfall brought an opportunity to embellish snow forts, add moguls to sledding hills and drink more hot chocolate.
The snow days this year have brought those memories back. Phones have been put away, and my teenage boy has come back out to play. Watching him and his teenage friends revisit the fun and play of their younger years has been an absolute joy. Even if we end up making up school days into June, I am grateful for the play that has come with this snow.
What allows teenagers to let go and truly play, I wonder as I watch them, encrusted in snow, laughing and playing. In December I wrote this about play: It does, however, require a change of mindset, a willingness to let go… The key is to let your mind move away from your everyday work and responsibilities. The everyday work of being a teenager is to figure out who they are and where they fit; who they will be as a grownup. And somehow our culture has removed play from the definition of being a grownup. We seem to have determined that the passage of time from childhood into adulthood means that we need to give up burying each other in the snow for the sheer pleasure of embracing the abundance! As parents, the question becomes, Can we help teenagers move through this time of real change without losing the joy found in play…? Young children naturally play. Then, as we add responsibilities to our lives, we lose that natural inclination. But when it snows, when in nature (because, isn’t it true that waves also bring out the play in everyone?) we often find it again.
I have asked other parents of teenagers when their children play. For this generation of kids there is a transition from play in nature to play with a device. Each generation sees the next as engaging in something that doesn’t make sense to them. Is this our difficult change? Does the nostalgia we bring to the discussion for “eating a bowl of cereal and heading out to the crick for the day” disallow us from seeing what they are doing as play? What is the role of electronic play? Where does nature fit in a world where play is so often something that is done on a screen indoors?
These are hard questions for me. I worry that we have done away with any free-flowing behavior, that our children will not know how to explore, how to be bored, how to let go. And yet I remember the words of Kahlil Gibran: For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,/which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams./You may strive to be like them,/but seek not to make them like you./For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
In my struggle I am glad for snow days, and I am glad that my teenager can still hear the call of a snow day to play, and I hope that his house of tomorrow has some nature in it.
Jennifer Moore-Kerr is a mom, a free spirit and a barefoot dancer living in Spring Green where she can walk to the river and commune with friends. She is delighted to share her thoughts on kids, time and nature on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on creativity, education and kids.