I love the school my kids go to, and the teachers are really wonderful and engaged and caring, and they are kind.
One child’s teacher sent him a letter, which arrived today, thanking us for a gift and asking what he’d done over break: Had he traveled? Been to a museum or the movies? She reminded him to be ready to share his vacation fun with his class when he got back to school.
I immediately, defensively, bristled (NOTE: She’d meant the note to get him thinking about what to share about his winter break, certainly not to make us feel like we hadn’t done enough over break!). We’d done none of those things. Max had mostly wanted to stay home, playing with his little brother, especially after Christmas, when they both had exciting new Legos and other things to explore.
Many families at the school are quite wealthy (not us!). Thus we hear about sailboats and ski houses and spring break in Paris and such. When I drop off my kids in my 14-year-old Honda Civic, I am especially careful not the bump the Range Rovers and BMWs parked on either side. The letter made me think maybe every other family was having a winter break filled with travel and culture.
Then I calmed down and decided to talk this over with the boys. How had we spent our winter break?
What we’ve done so far:
1. We hosted Christmas dinner, for one thing, which involved a fair amount of planning, cleaning, shopping, and prep. My mother had come here for a few days, and my boys got to finally see my childhood Christmas ornaments, some of my mother’s childhood Christmas ornaments, plus use my parents’ wedding china and the family silver for the first time. Plus have everyone come to our house for a holiday meal, for the very first time ever. Big doin’s, indeed.
2. We made and delivered little packages of warm new socks, homemade cookies, and a tiny bit of cash (thanks, Mom!) for the people who live under the bridge. No, really. We live at the edge of town, near the subway, and several people live in the underpass. Of our various holiday charity, this was the one thing the kids got into and could relate to, because they actually see these people every time we go to the subway. Kids without toys? My kids don’t really comprehend that, so our Toys for Tots donations were just confusing to them. Warm things and treats for the people under the bridge? Max was on it.
3. We spent a few days in the woods (not continuously!). We spent a few hours with school friends in a local conservation area, and returned a few days later with friends from our old neighborhood to spend even more time exploring the woods and meadows and enjoying a picnic lunch.
4. We went ice-skating. Both boys now want lessons.
5. We went to the New England Aquarium today, an adventure involving one bus ride; six trains; lunch out; and a return to the aquarium after lunch to see the octopus, the penguin feeding, and the seal training session. Several M&Ms were given as bribes and rewards, and I didn’t totally lose my shit when the little one ran his bare hand the entire length of the handrail on both the Blue Line and the Orange Line….and then touched his hand to his face (why oh why had I left all the hand sanitizer at home??). I told him if he touched one more thing, he’d need to get an extra flu shot (yes, I did say that—and yes, it worked).
6. We saw a movie (Planes 2), but we saw it at home (thanks, Redbox!) because we are movie cheapskates and would rather spend $1 and make our own popcorn (and uncork my own wine, thanks!) (though theater movies are certainly fun, and our local ancient theater is really cool).
What’s left to do before school starts again:
1. New Year’s Eve family party at the neighbors’, which will be an early, fun, low-key, kid-filled affair.
2. New Year’s Day dodgeball party at my friend’s house, which will be full of young childless single hungover mountaineering people and could be a total blast.
3. ?? Who knows? Will the kids go spend the night at their grandmother’s house? Will we all head north for a day of skiing?
We will know by the time the kids return to school, that’s for sure. But even if we stay here, which Max would probably be very happy to do, we’re enjoying our winter break.