Leap Yeah!

As I write this, typing haphazardly with a squirming baby on my lap, I reflect back to where I was last Leap Year, also working around a new baby. She was slightly older than the current one, but just as squirmy; and typing, reading, learning, and teaching around her were just about as challenging.

It’s a funny thing I’ve noticed about moms: we tend to calculate events based on our children, and work backwards from various pregnancies to get to an actual calendar date for any event. All my children arrived in odd years, so they’re all approximately two years apart (with the exception of the last two, who are four years apart).

And speaking of four years—or writing about it—brings us to today’s topic, namely, what can you do to brighten up an otherwise dreary, cold, and bleak February? (Groundhog Day doesn’t count: it’s too early in the month, it’s over so fast, and who wants to celebrate shadows?)

Well, we’re in luck this time around, because once again a Leap Day looms. And when I tried to pull out my mental roster of fun Leap Year activities to run through this month, I realized that we don’t really have any.

A tricky thing about maintaining Leap Year traditions is that they come around only every four years, which isn’t so long for us adults, but is an eternity to younger children. Four years ago my oldest was ten, my youngest was a baby, and all the children were at completely different places in interests and development, both from each other and from where they are now. That’s why we had to look up fun activities online to jump-start (ha ha!) our Leap Day/Month/Year plans.

The collective wisdom of the Internet was most obliging, and we came up with a very satisfying list of things, some of which we might actually do.

Here’s what we’re planning:

  • Reading up on our presidential history. This is good for the whole month long, because February also has Presidents’ Day, and the presidential election also happens every Leap Year. (I was in the library gathering up books on the presidents and saw an interesting one on display about George Washington Carver, so I grabbed that one too—a little off topic as we don’t know exactly when he was born, but fascinating nonetheless. So now peanuts and sweet potatoes are in our pantheon of learning as well.)

  • Literally leaping. There are so many lively games to play that involve (or could involve) leaping, and if it’s cold and rainy outside (which it usually is in February, unless it happens to be snowy), then we need to use up that energy indoors. The younger children especially are usually up for a game of Leapfrog, Twister, Mother May I, and Simon Says.

  • Studying the astronomical significance of Leap Year. This of course rabbit-trails into the historical development of the extra day. From the current Gregorian calendar, to the Julian calendar, going back to the Roman calendar, the process of counting our dates has been a veritable comedy of errors. Apparently the priests tasked with carrying out the original transfer of dates from the old Roman calendar to the corrected Julian calendar made a mistake in their calculations, so the numbers were still off. And the later adoption of the Gregorian calendar took place over the span of centuries, such that the American colonies were “off” from much of the Old World—by eleven days—until 1750!

  • Watching The Pirates of Penzance. We’ll watch this as a family on February 29th. The kids have never seen it, and while the Victorian humor may prove to be a bit esoteric to young minds, the plot twist is very satisfying and of course relates directly to the date in question.

There are so many more angles to this day, such as the Scottish tradition that (allegedly) permitted ladies to propose to their sweethearts on the one day when all common traditions and customs were flung to the wind. We’ll have to be careful not to upend all proprieties this year, but I think we’ll have a full plate of fun and learning.

Are you planning anything special for Leap Year?

Photo Credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author.

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