As I buckled Zelda into her carseat the other day, and George waited in the grass, picking up and throwing walnuts from the tree I'm convinced will one day crush me in my sleep, he asked why it wasn't snowing.
"It's so cold! Where's the snow?"
"Well," I told him, "conditions have to be just right. It takes more than cold weather to make snow. You need water in the sky, too."
He was insistent that I was wrong -- a common refrain these days -- and that somehow, something had gone wrong and our snow was either on its way, temporarily lost, or had been stolen by another city.
"It doesn't work that way," I said. "If the sky over our city has snow in it, we get snow. Snow is just like rain; it happens when it happens."
Well, that did it. I'd insinuated, apparently, that snow wasn't special, and I was, in addition, completely mistaken. Since this was the hundredth thing I'd been wrong about that morning (former offenses including the way I cooked oatmeal, telling him that T plus H makes a "th" sound, and saying that people's lips get blue when they're cold) George and I had both had it.
I know the feeling of wanting to be right. I know it so well that I can see it bubbling up in others. I see their feet find a place to plant and their fingers wrap tightly around the idea they're peddling, and I know(!) that when that grasp turns white-knuckled there is no forward movement to be made. With some people, I'm good at walking away. With my son? I often decide to attempt to break his steely will with "common sense" and convincing, very respectable phrases like "I've been alive for 29 years longer than you have!" Can you guess how well it works?
The internet can tell you who said "I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to." Despite liking this quote very much, I tend to forget it when I most need to remember it. If my goal is to impart, before we get to preschool, the exact process by which snow ends up on our lawn -- if that is really and truly integral to the further functioning of our day -- then I guess the snow argument would've been a valuable use of our time. But if teaching my kids that other opinions exist, that knowledge is transient, that ideas evolve, that it's okay to be wrong... well, yelling my credentials at a four year old is probably not the way. When he was done pointing at me and shouting his insistence that our snow was lost, and that I was either fibbing or wrong, he couldn't quite tell, my senses returned to me and I asked him if he was disappointed.
"I was really hoping for snow. You said it was going to be so cold. I thought there would be snow." His little downturned face, his boot kicking the frozen grass. I know that feeling, too. I feel that feeling; I just feel it at meteorologists, not my mom. "When you get home from school, do you want to learn about snow and cut out some snowflakes?" I asked. He nodded and wiped his eyes.
That afternoon, after school, as he ate his sandwich and I refilled Zelda's water in the kitchen, he called from the dining room, "Hey mama! You were right! The snow is just like rain. It happens when it happens. Maybe it will happen soon."
"I hope so!" I said. And just like that, we were back on the same team. A team I need to remember does not require lockstep agreement.