Until recently, if you had asked me the question: “If you had to re-live one time in your life, what would it be?” my answer would have been almost always: “My junior year of college.” With apologies to my husband and kids, who are lovely and the best things that ever happened to me, I really felt like I was hitting my stride that third year at a big university, and I will admit to missing the metabolism and sleep schedule of my 19-year-old self.

Now, though, I have a new answer to the question of whether I’d like to relive a certain moment in my life, and it is: “The night that Houston froze over.”

Several weeks ago, my parents were traveling through town, and planned to stay in our guest room for one night. My kids worship the ground my parents walk on, and vice versa, and so I was careful to prepare the kids that their grandparents would only be in town for one night, and that it was a school night. I reminded them to be grateful for whatever time we got to spend with them, but it would be quick.

A few nights before they were scheduled to arrive, my parents called and asked us if they could come one night early, because there was a big ice storm predicted in Texas, and they wanted to beat the storm by traveling to us before it hit. Yes, of course, we answered. Come early. Stay late. Please. On that first night in Houston, we went out to dinner to a Chinese restaurant, and we were still chomping on the crispy duck mu-shu when our phones started to light up. School was canceled the next day because of the forecasted ice storm.

If I could recreate the energy on my six-year-old’s face that night, we could light up the whole city. This was the jackpot: grandparent time and a day off, AT THE SAME TIME. What luck! One ice/freeze day turned into two, and we stayed cozy by the fireplace, playing board games and video games and eating too much and cuddling with our puppies. It is exactly as idyllic as it sounds. If I could re-live any time in my life, it would be that first night, when we had the possibility unfolding of time with our family together, as an unexpected gift.

A few weeks later, I was reflecting on this when I read the January 26 edition of Another Week Ends about parenting: “much of the anxiety surrounding modern parenting is the fruit of an over-emphasis on future outcome as opposed to present reality.” In that couple of days by the fireplace, I was excused from the daily rhythms that do over-emphasize a future outcome. Spelling lists, music practice, and logging pleasure reading like billable hours went by the wayside for 48 glorious hours. I felt like my kids were getting the sweet relief that a snow day brought to my childhood, and I was happy for them. I crave those moments for them, when they get to be children and experience childhood, instead of being programmed to take a test or decide what they want to be when they grow up.

Along the same lines, I watched my parents, recently retired, put their feet up and enjoy our mini-retreat. I still let my mom empty the dishwasher, because I’m not that nice, but it was an opportunity for my parents to play a few rounds of Sorry!, and to catch us up on what they’re doing in their retirement.

It was only a month ago, but I’m already muttering under my breath as I assemble lunches before sunrise, “What we could really use is another ice day.”

Thinking back on our frozen fiesta, I’m overcome with gratitude for children who get to be children, and parents who can continue to use their gifts to “do the work God has given them to do,” and even go to the beach now and then. When children are simply on a track to become The Adults They Will Become Someday, and people my parents’ age are simply set aside as No Longer Useful, they are not the only ones who suffer. For one thing, it puts an inordinate amount of pressure on those of us in the middle of all of that — the pressure to Live Our Best Lives Now, because by God, we’ve been preparing for it since birth, and it’s not going to be any use to us when we’re no longer bringing in a paycheck (or so the narrative goes). And when I think about which days of my life I’d like to re-live, I think about those days spent with my favorite people who are not fully formed yet, and those who formed me. These are the same people that marketers would have me believe are not in the prime of their lives. I’d beg to differ.

The moral of the story, though, isn’t that we pitched all of the spelling lists and wove daisy chains, choosing un-schooling over the structure of public school. We didn’t build a garage apartment for my parents (although it’s tempting). We weren’t more productive after a few days of rest, or if we were, it wasn’t notable.

But my noticing might cause me to extend a little more grace to my children, who are not the mini-adults that their planners (and giant shoes) would suggest them to be. I hope I can appreciate my parents for not only who they were, but who they are now. And maybe, perhaps, I can extend a little more grace to my husband and me, who are doing our best (meh, sometimes) and failing (often, and spectacularly) in these middle years. If childhood was simply a prelude to the life I live now, I’d hate to break that to my 8-year-old self, who slept with a teddy bear AND the family cat, and thought that crayons had feelings. If later adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I don’t know who’s going to stalk my adult children and make them uncomfortable at holiday parties, because I’ve really been looking forward to that. I’m turning forty later this year, which might be making me a bit defensive for not having all my ducks in a row. I’m also probably seeking a little bit of relief from the pressure of forming the future adults (commonly known as “children”) who live in my house. I’m trying not to take our Ice Days Vacation as a mindfulness lesson, even though I could probably use one of those. But if it just serves as a glimpse of the heavenly kingdom, when the grace of God transcends the expectations of childhood, and middle age, and our sunset years, then I’ll take it and be grateful for it.