All winter, my three children under 12 have jealously watched as their cousins in the North have repeatedly missed school for snow days, their sense of injustice deepening with every new snowman photograph on Facebook.
This year particularly, it seemed Dublin was only playing at cold weather, and it just wasn’t fair, at least until Wednesday morning. Suddenly, all of the seasonal gods were smiling on us at once. They finally had their whiteout, the first one they would properly remember. And, joy to beat all joys, schools were closed.
The first ring to the door from a pal came before 9am, the first snowball fight came about one and a half minutes later and the first attack of tears because “he hurted me” about one and a half minutes after that.
Surveying this briefly happy scene, I took a moment to congratulate myself for the foresight of buying wellies at the weekend, thinking of all the poor parents who hadn’t been so clever and would be facing into a lengthy period of the house smelling of a wet child’s shoes. And then I saw the other kids in the neighbourhood decked out in the kind of snow suits and snow boots you’d bring to the Austrian slopes, carrying all manner of sleds, and sporting massive snow gloves, and suddenly felt a little less proud of myself.
You forget that it takes a long time to get kids properly ready for a snowball fight (the kind that involves defensive walls and pre-made snowballs): the argument stage where they reject the many layers their mother requires them to wear; the compromise stage where they cave into the base layer but steadfastly refuse the hat; the second argument stage where their mother’s double-sock strategy is knocked back and; finally, the lots-of-sighing stage where they realise they won’t get to leave the house unless they agree to just one more piece of clothing.
Then they go out and get everything wet within about 50m of the door and the cycle starts again, but not before they volunteer that they are having real fun. This is something that I hear rarely and never from all three at once; it is special, when it comes.
And then there is the inevitable snowman. The thing the happy, smiling pictures don’t tell you is that constructing these guys with fresh, powdery snow takes a long, long time and a lot of hard work. We got about 10 minutes into the body bit of ours when the six-year-old helpfully suggested that we scale it back to a “mini-snowman”. Excellent plan, we all agreed, as the wind grew stronger and snow started to fall in twister formations. All of our faces were getting very red.
A day and a half in, several snowball fights, one life lesson (“never eat yellow snow”) and one mini-snowman later, the novelty of spending every minute of their first snow break from school in the actual snow was starting to wear off, just a touch.
“I feel very cold now,” the six-year-old ventured in her smallest voice. “Can I watch Netflix?”