How a Snow Angel Changed Her Parenting Perspective

She was feeling like a failure as a mother, until a heaven-sent sign reminded her what was really important.

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Posted in , Dec 27, 2020

An artist's rendering of a snow angel; Illustration by Daniel Lievano

“Jordan! Julia!” I called, pouring orange juice so fast that it splashed on the table. “Get dressed right away—we’re late!” I hadn’t been a single mom for all that long, but I’d been optimistic about the new year. For my children’s sake, I’d sworn I was going to be the best I could be, and I’d had the whole Christmas vacation to get us organized for the first day back to school after the holidays. But I had overslept, and we were racing to get ready, as usual.

Breakfast was rushed, and we bundled up for a snowy day. I held the door while Jordan, in kindergarten, and his little sister Julia, in preschool, ran to the car. Everybody buckled up, and we were off. I kept to the speed limit but wished time would slow. God, I’m already messing up.

In the back seat, Jordan unzipped his backpack. “All my Christmas stuff is still in here,” he said. “You forgot to clean it out over break.”

What could I say? I was the same imperfect me as always. “I’ll clean it out right after school today,” I said. “I promise.”

We arrived at school 10 minutes late. Too late to slip in unnoticed, not late enough to have a good excuse, like an early morning doctor’s appointment or impassable roads. I’d have to sign the kids in under the secretary’s watchful eye. She slid a clipboard to me across her desk. Why don’t they just let us check a column for Good Mom or Bad Mom? I thought as I wrote Overslept. I left the office feeling as if I had a big F stamped on my forehead.

I did manage to pick up Julia on time when her half day of preschool was over. She made snow angels in the yard as I caught up on the laundry. Later that afternoon we went to get Jordan. I helped him with his homework and left him to play in his room. Laundry will be done soon, I thought. Wait! Don’t forget to clean out that backpack. I didn’t want Jordan to have to remind me again.

I pulled out some Christmas cards, a colored picture of Santa, a baggie full of sparkles and bits of oats. There was a note stapled to the baggie: “Empty this bag outside on Christmas Eve to give Santa’s reindeer a snack!”

I imagined the fun we all might have had sprinkling the “reindeer food” outside on Christmas Eve. Too late now, I thought with a sigh. Again.

I put the baggie in the trash and went back to the laundry. I was folding some towels when Julia came in, the plastic baggie of reindeer food dangling from her hand. “We need to put this outside,” she said.

Oh, no. “I’m sorry, honey,” I said. “It’s too late now.”

Julia grabbed my hand and tugged me outside. It felt like being dragged back to the school office: Reason for not feeding Santa’s reindeer? Forgot to clean out backpack. Bad Mom.

Out in the yard, Julia pointed to the ground. Her snow angels decorated the whole yard. She opened the baggie. “I need to make their wings sparkle,” she said.

Julia walked, then danced around the yard, sprinkling glitter on all her angels’ wings. As I watched her, my feelings of inadequacy began to fade away. Julia probably wouldn’t remember the school office this morning, but she would definitely remember a yard covered in sparkling angels. Angels that never could have happened if I hadn’t forgotten about that backpack. And Jordan would be pleased when he unzipped it tomorrow. Maybe my kids didn’t need a new mom after all. Maybe Mom just needed a new attitude.

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