I think really, my actual question is, can we achieve both without detriment to the other?
This week, it snowed. A lot. So much so that on Monday and Tuesday the schools around us closed. Now, I know they are already closed to the majority of pupils, but my two youngest are still attending school daily, so for them, a snow day was pretty exciting. We were up and out in it by 8.30am. Dressed in so many layers we could hardly move, and I had seen an absolute life hack on some form of social media where you put medical gloves over the children’s actual gloves to stop them getting wet. To be honest, I was absolutely bossing parenting at this point. We threw snow, made a half hearted attempt at a snow man but mainly we played with the dogs who were running around like headless chickens (unlike the actual chickens, who, refused to leave their coop for three days!) By 11am we were eating popcorn in front of a movie with hot chocolate, thawing out.
We spent the next two days in a snow-ball, hot chocolate, blanket, PJ cycle which just went round and round. When outside, we chatted about this and that and the subject of previously making snowmen came up. Neither of the two little ones (the teenagers were obviously nowhere to be seen…daylight? Outside? Cold? You must be joking!) had never built a snowman before. In fact, they couldn’t recall a time where they had played outside at all. Ever.
I brushed over it and thought to myself of all the missed opportunities in other avenues of life. What else hadn’t they done? Where else hadn’t they been? I found that when I started fostering (and I’m still very green) that my focus was on the big things such as holidays abroad. I may have even thought about more expensive experiences they may not have encountered such as zoo trips or theme park visits. What I didn’t think of was the really, basic simple stuff. Playing outside. They had a garden so I have no real understanding of why they didn’t play outside but what huge emotional and social milestones haven’t been made simply because they weren’t allowed to play? To say that I was feeling good about the fact we were outside, breathing the air, getting covered in snow and then recuperating inside was an understatement. I felt that we had spent quality time together and fundamentally we were doing what (if COVID wasn’t a thing) every ‘normal’ family would be doing on a snow day.
On the evening of the second day my bubble was burst. Into my inbox flew an email asking if we were ok? If I was coping with all the children at home and not to worry because school would be open soon so they would be able to go back. The catalyst? We hadn’t accessed Google classroom for two days. Now, I really must stress here that I fully understand the role of the school. I understand that the school will be held to account for missing days on their Google classroom register by ‘the powers that be’. I understand that I have six children in the house and home-schooling is, quite frankly, bloody hard work when they are all here. And I understand that this email came from a place of support and of kindness and of complete love for me and the children. But it stung. And it got me thinking. What was more important on those two snow days? Was it more important that we carried on with the home-schooling schedule, completed all tasks and fundamentally, became a tiny bit smarter? Or was it more important that we bonded, threw snow at each other, sat under blankets and watched ‘Coco’ for the millionth time? I am not going to answer that question. I don’t believe that even as a mother, Foster Carer or teacher I am qualified to answer it.
I suppose the best people to ask is the children themselves – but I won’t do that either. What I will do is say that I now know that my youngest foster child isn’t a fan of snow, it’s ‘too cold’ and my middle one is a fabulous ‘driveway clearer’ and that non of us are very good at making snowmen. But at least we tried.