183 of my Saturdays with the tiny toddler are already gone. I have approximately 757 more Saturdays to go with him before he leaves the house for college, or work, or whatever path his life takes. And it's even worse for the big five year old- 313 of my Saturdays with him have been spent already. For good or bad, they are gone. Whether I was cleaning the house, working, or playing with my boys, it doesn't matter. Those Saturdays are only memories now.
Wondering where I am getting this emotional math problem? Ever since I read an article about how we only have 940 Saturdays between birth and leaving the nest to spend with our kids, it has been on my mind. You can read my previous thoughts about this here. 940 Saturdays. And as our kids get older we will have to compete with all the other noise in their lives- sports, band, friends, girlfriends, (oh my god!), school activities. Parents of older kids aren't kidding when they tell us to "enjoy them now." They know. It will be over before we can blink.
I already see it in my oldest son. He will turn 6 years old next month. He is starting to ask more thoughtful questions and read chapter books. He is bringing home books from the school library about race cars, football, and airplanes. He has relationships I know very little about with friends and teachers at school- he is out and about during the day, riding buses, keeping track of his milk money, doing his own thing. He is growing tall and strong. He still wants to spend every minute with his mommy, though, which is just fine with me. For now, he is still mine. The world doesn't get to have all of him just yet.
So I have spent about 79 Saturdays with the tiny toddler so far. Some of them have been wonderful days, full of laughter and joy. Many of them have been very difficult days, full of tears and tantrums. But I will miss them when they are gone. Last month my youngest son spent all day with his daddy at a football game and even though I welcomed the peace and quiet and calm that I found by being alone in our home for hours, I still missed him. Perhaps I have grown accustomed to the new normal that is our lives. Perhaps I now relish the noise, the laughter, the chasing and jumping boys. And every day, or most days, at least, they grow up a little more and life gets a little easier. A high school friend of mine who remembers taking her four year old to swim lessons while dragging her two year old twins along was telling me the other day that her now tween children can now be left alone in the pool while she works out in another part of the gym. "You day will come", she told me. And I know it will. All too soon my day will come. And a part of me is looking forward to that, I must admit. A part of me is looking forward to spending time with my boys without the diaper bag, snacks, toys, and tantrums. Although with the loss of the preschool "stuff" I carry everywhere comes increased independence for my boys, with more Saturdays taken up with their schedules than with me.
183 Saturdays done. 313 of my older son's, gone.
Today I made the decision to not take the quiet time for myself that I so enjoy while the big five year old is in China school. Today I made the decision to not lose one of the precious Saturdays and to instead bring the tiny toddler along. We only have 940 Saturdays, yes, but no one said they couldn't be spent in total chaos!
We played in the play room, making patterns out of soft blocks and playing peek a book behind the tree house. We sat at a table and shared a drink together. We watched music videos on my phone and did a little dancing. We spent the entire morning together, yet still somewhat apart. He's independent, my little man. He wanted to roll down the hallways of the church and play with the water fountain. He wanted to sit outside the door while the other little ones played in the play room. He wanted to watch his music on my phone while sitting two chairs away from me. Today is the 79th Saturday I have spent with my tiny toddler, and still much of it was spent watching him. Not really fully engaged, he still often prefers to do his own thing. He wants me near, he needs to know I am available, ready to offer a hug or a helping hand when he climbs to the top of the block tower he built and is dangerously close to falling. It is normal, I suppose, for a three old to begin to assert his independence in this way. It is harder for me, I think, because he has always been this way. And because I just don't know- is it normal growing up or is it attachment? Does he feel grounded and loved or does he still feel uncertain?
Stopping his play every twenty minutes or so so that we could find a quiet corner to "regroup" wasn't all that effective today. He still was unable to self regulate and his unseen stress eventually led him to bite me. We aren't there yet. Some days I think we are close, and other days I feel we are oh so very far from the finish line. His usual regulating techiques, all learned through trial and error, did not work today. But still, we spent this Saturday together.
Now my husband is spending his Saturday with the boys. I can hear them downstairs, laughing, running, cleaning up their toys and getting ready to head out to buy a guinea pig. That's a story for another day. We have such little time. I see it when we head back to Cleveland. I see it in the aging faces of nieces and nephews and in my mother-in-law's eyes as she looks at my husband. Such little time.
My husband wants to go out to dinner tonight, something that does not normally go so well. One boy at a time, OK. Both boys together somehow throws the tiny toddler out of whack and winds him up past the point of no return. The fact that he rarely eats prevents us from making sure he is truly hungry when we hit the restaurant, a trick that works with the big five year old. Today though, I am willing to risk it. let the other diners wonder why we don't have our little man under control. Let them think he is spoiled. Let them stare and wonder about our parenting skills. Heck, if I am really lucky, let them dodge a matchbox car or a flying french fry. I know the truth. I know that my tiny toddler is still finding his way. I know that he has special needs that others cannot see. I know we will be "that family". But I also know that my Saturdays are dwindling, and so I will take every one I can get!