There I was this weekend, mourning the loss of my self during these very exhausting Toddler Times with a 2-year-old daughter who is teething, tantruming, growing and learning at a frightening pace, when I caught up on some Internet reading and hit the all-time record-scratch of a factoid.
According to a new book No Regrets Parenting, there are apparently only 940 Saturdays between the time your child is born and she goes off to college. If your kid is 5, you've already cashed in 260. 940 Saturdays, you guys! That's like a big number that actually seems pretty tiny in this context!
I haven't read the book yet, but the beauty of such a tidbit is that it manages with a single solitary sentence to 1.) actually get to me and 2.) take any ambiguity I might have had about the march of time and obliterate it like chocolate-y toddler hands on a silk blouse.
The idea is pretty universal/simple: the minutes and days of early childrearing are long and hard. That much we know! (Unless you're one of those people who doesn't know — in which case, now you know.) But the weeks and years go by in a blaze of crazy-fast, and before you know it, are over. And off goes your child to a college that costs too much with complicated problems where she's living out the 16-years-from-now version of HBO's Girls, which by then we can only assume will be called "Wincing Female Persons."
The idea is to make the childhood time more meaningful and not lose it to all the planning and organizing and scheduling that childrearing so often takes. Hell, it doesn't just make you nostalgic for the childhood your kid hasn't had yet, it makes you nostalgic for childhood you never had.
I, for instance, spent five whole years of Saturdays at the goddamn skating rink. To this day, I'm able to list most of the Top 100 songs of 1986 by rote and still feel the urge to ask a guy to couples skate whenever I hear "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr. But where, precisely, has that gotten me?
Touché, parenting book guy, touché.
But back to my baby. These days, it's all alligators and cookies and heart-shaped sunglasses and sticks and tricycles in our weekend lives. It is usually a blast, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that our Saturdays are sometimes just spent making sure she plays hard enough to get that nap and then hard enough again to fall asleep and could you please just take ONE MORE BITE of the rice and beans you claimed to love five minutes ago so you don't wake up asking for a graham cracker at 2:34 a.m.?
Although she is always totally adorable, it is sometimes a real slog just to get through, especially when mommy hasn't had her coffee and ibuprofen. 940 Saturdays guy leaves me bloated with regret for the Saturdays that are already gone - the Saturdays when this little baby couldn't even hold her head up yet, or couldn't even walk, or could walk but only real shitty and how funny that was, and it all makes me vow to do better. Like, magical Saturday pillow fortress time better.
Because now she can already put on her pants all by herself and sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and dances with delight when Snoopy shows up in "It's Flash Beagle, Charlie Brown." It has all gone by so slowly and yet so fast, and it is impossible to discern when the changes came, or where they went. All that is left is a feeling.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. She doesn't actually own any silk blouses.
Image by Jim Cooke.