Usually, the thought of having no electricity is unpleasant at best. But for some reason the pending hurricane brought back some fond childhood memories.
I know that sounds bizarre. Some of the storms I’ve experienced were treacherous and even life-threatening. I grew up in Massachusetts and my collection of New England stories includes hurricanes, tornados and, of course, the Blizzard of ’78, when my parents and I were living in Nahant—a small town, out on the ocean, across the water from Boston.
As a mom, I now realize what I couldn’t have understood then. My perception of what was happening was greatly influenced by the attitudes of those around me, in particular, those of my mother, father and older siblings.
During nature’s fierce challenges, I’d follow their lead, maintaining humor while gathering candles, flashlights and cards—there was always a deck of cards.
And even if things got bad, it seemed we’d be fine. They’d created a world where nothing mattered but board games and family songs or stories told by candlelight.
If the power got knocked out for an extended period of time, I’d get to see my mom make toast over a candle—which I don’t recommend. It tastes pretty bad, and I think it may even be a little poisonous. Sorry, mom, just sayin’…
But still, we survived. We learned to make the best of any situation, found our source of strength and soon figured out the difference between luxuries and necessities.
So as my kids and I got ready for Irene, I tried to keep in mind the value of this parenting opportunity. I wanted to teach them how to expect the best, but prepare for the worst, keep their heads during a challenge and have a little fun, even when things were tough.
We gathered candles, flashlights and water—and a deck of cards. But it was what I threw in the shopping cart from the snack section that truly caught the attention of my children.
“Potato chips? Chocolate goldfish? Marshmallow fluff?” they shouted. “You never let us eat that stuff. Why now?”
“It’s a hurricane party,” I said, casually, tossing in some white bread. “Let’s give ourselves a few treats.”
They shared one joyful glance before gleefully skipping through the cookie section and adding to the goodies. But when we got home, the real work began. With the help of each mini-me, all outdoor furniture was stored and the groceries put away. The kids broke a sweat and were reminded that sometimes you just had to put in some effort without complaint, if you wanted things to work out.
Inside, I was secretly ambivalent about feeling stagnant for the next few days, but I tried not to reveal my fear of being homebound. I guess my daughter may have been feeling the same way, because she set us up with a walking game on her DSi, which came with two pedometers. The goal was 3,000 steps. I happily attached mine to my pocket, and it began counting, as I proceeded to run around the house finishing all of the preparations.
This will add up quickly, I thought.
But when my enthusiastic girl returned with her step count, she’d already reached the finish line, while I fell drastically short. I felt defeated—until I found out she'd been putting hers on the cat.
Talk about learning how to make the best of it.
In anticipation of losing power, I’m submitting this column before Irene’s arrival. She may or may not make much of an impact, but hopefully I’ve taken full advantage of the parenting opportunity she’s presented, and created some memories that my kids might call upon someday, when facing their own challenges.
Fingers crossed. I guess we'll have to wait until the morning to find out exactly what will happen.
I'll let you know next week.
Until then, goodnight, Irene.
UPDATE: Although Irene made little impact on our household, the lessons learned during the preparation for her arrival and her appearance will last a lifetime. I'll provide you with all of the details in next week’s Because Momma Says So.
Taryn Grimes-Herbert is the author of the I’ve Got character-building book series for children, and was 2010’s Woman of Achievement in the Arts Honoree for Orange County, NY. Calling upon her professional acting experience on Broadway, film and television, she speaks out and takes her books into classrooms hoping to help kids build character, develop empathy and learn to create a positive future through creative dramatics activities.