This morning, my nine-year-old son left to catch his bus and I went outside to clear more of the never-ending %^&*ing snow we're dealing with this year. I can't remember a year when we had such amounts, and as much as I have begun to loathe it, my nine year-old son finds it an absolute joy. He's blown through several sets of ski-quality gloves, two pairs of snow pants, and much of my patience as he's lost more kitchen utensils in the backyard than I can count. I don't even want to know what he needs a lime reamer for in the backyard, yet somehow it's become a "super-duper-important" snow play tool. And because his sister is a teenager, most of his home-time snow play is solitary and that's the way he likes it. Being alone in the snow is calming for him. It's peaceful and it's insulating and comfortable and it is bliss.
But it's also deadly.
After I cleaned the snow today, I sat down with a coffee to catch up on the morning news, because every morning I like to give the national news weatherman the finger. I was devastated when I caught the tail end of a news story about the death of a nine year-old boy who had become trapped in a snowbank and, I assume, had suffocated. A few weeks ago, a similar situation occurred in Winnipeg, and as much as I bitch about the noise/trouble/stress nine-year-old boys provide, the loss of two of them is two too many. As the mother of a terrible/lovely/frustrating/beautiful/funny/drive-me-fucking-nuts-but-I-love-you-so-hard snow-loving nine-year-old boy myself, my heart took on one more jagged tear for these families whose histories will now be permanently stamped with tragedy.
These boys' deaths were accidental and their families need nothing but our sincere condolences, or wishes for peace, or candle-light, or sage burning, or whatever the hell you prefer to do for people who are grieving. Accidents are just that—and these deaths were the epitome of the word. No matter how I try to stop my brain from wandering to that dark corner—that corner where I'm forced to think about how scared two little boys must have been in their last moments—something pushes me there and holds me there and I have to think about it because, well, because my brain is a real asshole sometimes.
Please—PLEASE—talk to your children about snow safety today. We have talks about road safety, thunderstorm safety, water safety, and bike safety. I've even had "don't stick a fork in the toaster," and "you probably shouldn't put that there" body part talks about safety. I'm a free-range parent by nature and I allow my son unrestricted access to all of our property and its many mountains of snow, and I will continue to do so. But because he often plays alone, I will now insist on some safety precautions and intermittent check-ins during his hours (and hours, and hours . . . seriously, how the hell does he not feel cold out there?) of outdoor play. We've already talked about staying well back from the road—like 25 feet well back—in order to stay safe from plows and plow drivers who can't always spot a tiny boy in a blue snowsuit, no matter how pink and glowing his cheeks are from the freedom of solitary play and the magic of clean winter. Now I will insist he "check in" every now and then, so I know he is safe—even if that is just him throwing a snowball at my window. Maybe forts should be a "him+1" activity, or maybe I need to implement a "no roofs" restriction, or maybe I'll relent and buy him a dog, or I . . . I just don't know. But I will be considering it today, somewhere between the spaces where I am thinking of these beautiful boys and their grieving families.
For more tips on keeping your kids safe, check out: "Teaching Children How To Cross The Street Safely" and "How To Camp Safely Near Water."