by Mike Todd
“The phone’s going to ring any minute, and then our lives will be over,” I said, pulling the covers over my head and bracing for the worst.
“It’s really not that big of a deal. It’ll be fine either way,” my wife Kara replied. As soon as those words left her mouth, the phone rang, and our lives would never be the same, at least not until early that evening.
“Your school district is super-wimpy, and we don’t feel like teaching your kids today, so even though there’s barely enough snow to cover the grass, we’re cancelling school. To those parents who have really important meetings today, you will not be in attendance, at least not in person, and if you’re able to call in, everyone on the conference line will hear ‘Jake and the Neverland Pirates’ playing in the background. Good luck! If you will excuse us now, we have a long day of not teaching your children to attend to, and this Margarita machine is not going to pour ice into itself.”
That’s pretty much what the automated message said, though I might be paraphrasing somewhat.
“Yay! No school today!” our sons yelled, hugging and running around in circles. I wished I could share their enthusiasm, but an important part of getting older is learning to detest things that bring joy to children.
When I was a kid, a snow day was a pure, unadulterated, wonderful thing. Though I never really thought about it at the time, I’m pretty sure mom and dad felt that way, too. But back then it was different because parents were just parents, not actual human brings with needs and wants of their own.
“OK, let’s compare calendars and see how we’re going to get through this,” Kara said, and we started figuring out how we would both get as much work done as possible while still, ideally, keeping the children alive.
“Pirates!” Zack, our two-year-old, yelled, reminding us that we already had a babysitter in the house, her name was Netflix, and she only charges nine bucks a month.
“That’s an excellent idea, matey,” I said, picking up several remote controls in the correct sequence to begin what would become a marathon session of “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” Both kids sat, transfixed, kind of like the guy from “Clockwork Orange,” except without the eye clips forcing his eyes to stay open.
We’ve reached the magical moment in parenting when, after many years of chasing the kids around the house, we can finally outsource our parenting responsibilities to various electronic devices. Between Netflix and the iPad, Kara and I are basically extraneous, except as providers of chicken nuggets.
“We always used to say how easy it would be when the kids were old enough to watch TV and entertain themselves even for a little while. But now we’re finally here, and I feel guilty. I know today’s an exception, but we should be paying more attention to them,” Kara said. At least that’s what she told me later that she said. I was staring at my laptop, so I wasn’t paying attention.
“The show stopped!” a child screamed. If you let Netflix play for too long, a “prompt” pops up to make sure you haven’t done anything unthinkable, like going outside to get some fresh air.
“Are you still watching?” Netflix asked, and perhaps I was being too sensitive, but it felt a little judgmental. Netflix doesn’t come right out and say it, but you can almost see the “or do your parents care about you” implied right before that question mark.
“Yes,” I clicked with the remote. Of course we care. But sometimes, to survive a snow day, you need a little help from a trusted babysitter.