I write this as Fred is enjoying his time at Jack’s house, where he’s spent a good part of the weekend already. Jack’s mom and I finally crossed that early awkward line of what a playdate means – a double date between mom and child or the golden babysitting opportunity. We now freely call up one another to ask for babysi – er – a playdate, or, in our more spontaneous moments, physically bring the child by the house and ring the bell, on the usually on-chance that the other mother will take the kid in. You see, it’s easier with two kids; they have the built-in energy, same-interest loving and annoyance-rolling-off-your-back ability to just delight each other to no end, thus making it possible for us adults to grab some quiet time to fold laundry, catch up on celebrity gossip or sneak in a nap.
Okay, I am giving just one side of the story here. Hopefully if you have read my previous posts you will know instinctively just how much I love my child and how I have built my life around him. We became interested in such playdates because we were so happy that Fred has met another friend whom he loves – and that’s the word he uses – so much. “We tell everyone at school we’re brothers, Mommy,” Fred revealed to me one day. And Jack’s mother tells me that Jack says he no longer needs another sibling if he has Fred. At the ripe old age of 5 they’ve discussed plans to go to middle school together and Fred is already in love with Jack’s girl friend. It doesn’t get more brotherly than this!
But let’s face it: I love this free time, and it’s not only because Fred gets to spend it with his “brother.” I love it because I get to numb my brain in front of the internet, read a juicy mystery novel or just snooze away in the sunlight. It’s taken me years to allow myself to admit this. Does it mean I prefer Facebook or a paperback novel to quality time with my child? That is the part I find hard to accept in myself. I will admit that sometimes, usually when I am exhausted – and that is my usual physical (and mental) state – cries of “Let’s play Bakugan Brawlers!” will send waves of dread over me. Suddenly I have this inexplicable preference to sanitize all the shower curtains and toilet bowls in the house.
I had never been good at playing. I had never been good at being a kid. As a child I related more to adults and preferred the company of adults. My mother said she could put a book in my hands and forget I even existed. Consequently I never became really popular as a high school or college student; I was too square and well-behaved to be any fun, hip or cool. And the funny and ironic thing is that I was in HOT demand as a babysitter! To be sure, it wasn’t easy to find a straight-laced and authority-respecting teenager. I wasn’t hip or cool but that probably made my stock higher among the parents looking for a sitter. I was responsible and a good role model. But always I was aware that the kids deserved someone “fun.”
So God didn’t help any by giving me a boy. The day my ob told me the ultrasound revealed a little penis, I literally burst into tears. How do I raise a boy?? I didn’t know what I’d do – as a child I had liked reading, daydreaming and drawing pictures in solitude and I was afraid that any boy with my genes would only turn into a playground target. Though Fred was just a fetus, I loved him enough at that early stage to believe that he deserved someone more…”fun.”
Fortunately for me Fred shares my love for words and art. And fortunately for Fred his father shares his love for sports, silliness and sometimes over-the-top action. I do spend alot of time with Fred, despite the time I need to spend on our business. But Fred is already in school 5 long days a week…and I am feeling guilty for still relishing some of my own time on the weekends…
The other night after his shower I noticed that Fred waited for me to be done cleaning out the bathtub before he went into his room to get dressed.
“Go on and get dressed, Fred. I’ll be right there.” I told him. But he stood in place, silently signaling to me that he was going to wait.
“Fred, you really should be more independent.”
“What does ‘independent’ mean?” he asked, his body looking even smaller in the oversized towel.
“It means being able to do things by yourself. So go on. You don’t have to wait for me.”
“I know I don’t. But I love you so I just want to be with you.”
I have no conclusion. I haven’t figured it out. I love Fred. I love my free time. I wince to see Fred grow up so quickly. I often long for uninterrupted hours to myself. All I know is that I’ll continue to feel guilty until the day comes when I will indeed have plenty of long, uninterrupted hours to myself.