Pushing the Limits

Huge, blinding snow flakes are whipped around by gusting winds.  Rain and ice pellets coat all exposed surfaces.  Roads are treacherously slippery, and visibility is near zero.

According to those in my family who worry about little else but the amount of snow and its moisture content for playing purposes, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Nothing else can be played with, dug into, thrown, constructed, sculpted, slid on, and tackled into with the versatility, availability and absence of financial expenditure, but that which makes our region (ahem) wonderful:  snow!

As it became obvious that this was not a mere dusting but a swift accumulation of awesome packing snow, hats and mitts were airborne as the kids eagerly and impatiently tossed them, one by one, out of the winter storage bin.  Luckily, the required clothing was found quickly enough to avoid a melt-down as the anticipation to get outside was as intense as the driving snow itself.

My kids seemed to be playing parts in a Laurel and Hardy film, tripping over each other in an effort to be first out the door, not yet accustomed to the extra girth from the bundling required to enjoy their time in the cold, snowy weather.

In these early stages of “real winter”, I have to closely supervise their time outside …from the comfort of inside the house…as close to the fireplace as possible.

The kids only remember how much fun it is, but the potential perils of snow play have long been forgotten.

The first few snow balls soar haphazardly through the air, dangerously close to children’s heads and neighbours’ windows.  My daughter sustains the first inevitable injury as a hidden fragment of ice hits her in the face.  She comes to the door and offers the scratch as proof that I need to scold her brother, and I realize it is necessary to issue the first set of safety reminders…which I forgot as they hurried the door.

“That was awfully close to her eye!” I holler out the door at my son, careful not to get any snow on my fuzzy slippers.  “No snowballs near the head!”  I back up quickly and slam the door shut just in the nick of time.   “Or windows!” I yell again, opening the door a small crack.

Providing they don’t aim at windows (or heads) I’m generally OK with the throwing of snow.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that picking up snow and throwing it is actually an instinct that they would be unable suppress no matter how hard I try.

However, if history is an indicator of how this snow ball season will go, the rules will quite likely become stricter as the days progress since my kids – and I’m sure you’ll find this surprising – always find ways to push the limits.

After I declared heads and windows “out of bounds,” it wasn’t long at all before I needed to address the throwing of snow balls at adversaries who were unwittingly (?) standing in front of windows, cars, and people not the least bit interested in engaging in a snowball fight.

Soon, the throwing of snow peaks and the kids are in search of the next adventure.  They find it…right next to the road.

It is an excruciatingly cruel irony that the highest and most appealing snow banks are those located in such a dangerous spot for a kid.

These inviting piles entice them to build tunnels into, jump from and slide down onto the softer snow below.  The kids assure me with genuine 11 and eight-year- old certainty that there’s no way that, when perched at the top readying for the slide down, they will slip and fall onto the road.  I want to believe them, but feel the need to step in as the sn-ogre yet again.

I suggest they move the snow pile away from the road and build their mountain where an unplanned fall will result only in a cushioned landing rather than a case of road rash or vehicular mishap.

They appear to consider the idea for a moment, but are really amassing a mental list of alternatives, each point beginning with, “But, what if we…”  Eventually they realize this as non-negotiable and dejectedly go to gather an assortment of implements with which to move the snow.

Before long, shovels, snow and criticisms of the other’s building abilities are flying as they easily create a mountain out of a mole hill.

Then, the snow plow passes, the kids cheer, and our debate begins again…

originally appeared in the Waterloo Region Record