The Playroom: Snow day

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

Today was a snow day, no school.

By 7:30 in the morning my kid says, “Mom, I’m bored what am I supposed to do?”

“Get out of the bathroom; I’m not even dressed yet!”

Geez, who made me cruise director around here?

Well, the answer to that is me. I made me cruise director. Everything around here runs on a schedule according to me.

My kids don’t bolt out the front door on a summer morning only to return for food or when the street lights come on. They don’t run around with the neighborhood kids and guzzle Kool-Aid at someone’s house down the block before racing to the park on their bikes.

I’m always there, always directing. Play dates, soccer practice, karate, my scheduling, me driving the van, dropping them off, picking them up, making up the schedules, running their lives.

When faced with a day of freedom, they are paralyzed. “What do we do?” they ask.

I tell them to just go outside and play. I scan the street for other neighborhood children, but the streets are silent. Where are the children? Why don’t they come outside and play?

Finally, a neighbor’s child appears and the girl and her sister come over. For two brief hours it is the kind of afternoon I remember from when I was 9 years old. Kids in and out, at this house, the next house, asking for food, warming up cold hands and then racing back out again.

The older girls go over to the school parking lot to sled down snow piles, more children are there, not planned, not knowing who might be there and who might not, meeting some kid you’ve never met before and playing out of the sight of parents.

I hear my husband’s voice calling for my daughter, and I tell him she’s over at the school parking lot, which is one block east of our house. He asks immediately if anyone is there watching her, watching the children. I tell him no, and I think how refreshing it is that the children are there, and they are unsupervised.

He looks at me quizzically and asks if I’m okay with that, not so much because of his own fears but because I never let these kids go to the school parking lot to play without supervision. It’s a parking lot; there are cars there; they could get mushed.

But nobody gets mushed. They just get snowy and cold and keep playing. I like this day. The unstructured freedom of it, the way my children find something to do and they are outside, running around, being spontaneous and creative. Without their mother writing the script and directing everything they do, they improvise and make up games, direct their own play.

A needlepoint on the wall at the therapist’s office reads, “There are two lasting things we give our children, one is roots, the other is wings.”

On this snow day, I want my children to run out the front door and race down the street with their arms outstretched, faster, faster, joyfully. Arms lift higher, laughing faces tilt towards the sky, with snowflakes on their tongues, I want them to fly.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at