I read an article yesterday that I can't stop thinking about. It was in Parents magazine and you can read the article here. It is all about finding ways to spend more quality time with your children. Note I said quality. It's not about quantity. It's about having meaningful interactions with your kids. I am all about making my kids' lives happy, healthy, and memorable, so I began reading this article with great anticipation. And I did get some really good ideas out of it. But I also read something that made my heart stop briefly. The author, Dr. Harley Rotbart, says, "There are only 940 Saturdays between a child's birth and her leaving for college." WHAT?
940 doesn't seem like that many to me. If these Saturdays were dollars then we charge more than that to our credit card every month. And in my case, I lost 56 Saturdays with my big five year old and 96 Saturdays with my tiny toddler before they even joined my family. As I read the article and did the math my heart sank. I am losing time!
Maybe because we worked so hard to bring these boys into our lives my sweet husband and I already cherish our time with them. We plan fun trips to monster truck shows, outings to children's concerts, vacations to amusement parks and beaches. We frequently stop by the park after daycare/preschool to play and we work hard to spend as much time together as possible. But I get tired of the parenthood grind too.
I enjoy sitting down at the kitchen table with my big five year old, helping him with his homework, which pretty much consists of watching him write the alphabet and listening as he reads his kindergarten reading books. He is learning to read, and it is an amazing thing to watch! But I have to admit, when I have helped him sound out the difference between "pick" and "peck" for the thousandth time, I get a little tired of it. I love our bedtime routine with the tiny toddler. We read, rock, snuggle, hug and kiss, and then, when he is zippered into his crib he points to the rocking chair across the room and demands, "Mama, SIT!". And I do. And I am so pleased when he tries to say "spider", which comes out more like "Speeda", and makes the hand motions, asking me to sing his new favorite song. But by the time I am on my seventeenth chorus of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" I am done. Go to sleep already!
I love cooking for my family, when they aren't around. But when they are all home, getting underfoot, demanding snacks, asking for something other than what is on the menu that night- I don't like it so much. Sure, I get the boys involved, having them set the table or tear the lettuce for the salad, but sometimes it is just too much, always having them be literally right where I need to be. Always. But these moments will be gone, way too soon. And I knew that, of course. Every mother of young children has been told by countless mothers of grown children to "cherish every moment". And I try to, I really do. But when I am sweeping the kitchen floor for the third time in one day or mopping up water off the bathroom floor that should have stayed in the tub I start to lose sight of those days in the future when my tub will be empty and my house always clean. But this article really helped me to visualize the amount of time we truly have with our children.
At the daycare Christmas play this past Christmas my then almost five year old wanted to sit with his friends to eat his after the show cookies. He rides his bike without my help and can climb up on the counter to get the fluoride toothpaste that we have to keep up and out of the reach of his little brother. Every day there is something new that he no longer needs me for. And he is five years old- I have already "spent" over 240 of my precious Saturdays. And once they're gone, they are gone. You can't get them back.
So while I am happy with both the quantity and quality of time I spend with my children I will always keep "940 Saturdays" in the back of my mind. When I am bargaining with my husband over which one of us will run upstairs to check on the sleeping boys, or when I am singing show tunes in my head to stave off the boredom of watching them ride their bikes past the house for the hundredth time, or when I am just trying to get from the car to the store and home again and one of my little ones stops me to show me a bug, or a leaf, or a rock, I will try to remember that with each bike ride or each bug crawling past us the days are numbered. Before I know it my big five year old will be spending Saturdays in his dorm room, playing video games or drinking (gasp!) with his friends. In the blink of an eye my tiny toddler will have a home of his own and may be sitting in a rocking chair in his son's room, singing the same song over and over and over. Yes, the days are numbered.
I read the article in Parents magazine and I have committed to trying some of the techniques mentioned. Some of them I already do, but there is always room for improvement. I plan to work on practicing parenting meditation, take more pajama walks, and serve more ice cream with sprinkles.
Tomorrow is Saturday. How are you going to spend one of your 940 Saturdays?