Saturday #286


The other night, I read an piece from No Regrets Parenting entitled, “How To Spend More Quality Time With Your Child.” In the first paragraph, author Dr. Rotbart suggests that rather than struggling to increase the quantity of time you spend with your family, focus on increasing the quality of memorable moments with them.

It appeared that Dr. Rotbart and I shared a similar parenting philosophy, so I continued reading. I had no idea I was about to get a glimpse of something far worse than the sight of a nit on a hair shaft or the contents of a sippy cup of milk after four months under the bed.

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In fact, mid-way through the article, I looked down and wondered if that was sweat or tears filling the spaces between my computer keys. And surely those guttural sobbing noises I was hearing were not coming from me.

What was going on here?

Well, I can tell you; it was this line: “There are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her leaving for college. That may sound like a lot, but how many have you already used up? If your child is 5 years old, 260 Saturdays are gone. Poof!”

Whoa. Hold on a minute, Dr. Rotbart. Did you just tell me I only have 680 Saturdays left with my youngest child?

Given the fact that the doctor used the pronoun “her” and the example age of 5, it did seem that he was, in fact, personally delivering this bad news to me.

And I wasn’t taking it well.

In fact, the further I read into the article, the more emotional my reaction became. I felt my eyes and mouth grotesquely contort into the “ugly cry face.” You know the one: snot runs down your nose into your mouth, and you don’t even care because you’re so distraught.

Blame the hysterical breakdown on this paragraph: “Picture their tousled bedrooms as clean and empty. See the backseat of the car vacuumed and without a car seat or crumbs … Then rewind the imaginary clock back to now, and see today’s minutes of mayhem for what they are: finite and fleeting.”

The thought of Express Car Wash Guy no longer needing to call in back up with hazmat suits when I pulled up actually made my lip quiver. I couldn’t bear to imagine the day my car would be void of treasures like a fossilized teething biscuit from 2001 or the beloved one-armed Polly Pocket that I thought we left poolside at Holiday Inn in 2005.

I realized I was TOTALLY missing the positive message of the article. Yet, I couldn’t get past the fact that I had been living my life unaware of the fact that there is an exact number of Saturdays before my kids permanently leave the house.

I cursed the hospital staff for neglecting to inform me that my newborn baby came with “minutes,” just like a pre-paid phone card. And just as one who had carelessly wasted calling minutes by drunk-dialing, making prank phone calls, and multi-tasking while talking, I felt desperate to get those minutes back.

But it was hopeless.

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I could envision the sour faced sales manger of “Minutes With Your Children,” shaking her unsympathetic head at me.

“I am sorry, Ma’am. You HAD 940 on your card and now you only have 680. I cannot give you a refund just because you now decide you shouldn’t have spent your credits bitching and moaning about lack of sleep, dirty clothes on the floor, and not being able to go to the bathroom by yourself.”

I was sobbing uncontrollably now. I didn’t know how I would break it to my husband. How could I tell him we had a deficit of 260 on “the card” for our youngest child? (And God only knows the even smaller number of minutes left on “the card” for our oldest child.)

But I never had the chance to tell him.

As soon as my backside hit the couch where my husband sat, my older child came wandering in. Having been asleep for several hours, she was squinty eyed, groggy, and had hair sticking up in ten different directions—she never looked so beautiful.

My child then spoke three words, which up until the moment I heard the ticking clock of “Saturdays Gone By,” were the LAST words I ever wanted to hear at 10 p.m. when I finally sat down to relax.

“I can’t sleep,” she gurgled and then burst into tears.

I bolted from my seat as if she had just announced they were giving out free chair massages and margaritas in her room. I didn’t even consider debating with my husband about whose turn it was to tuck in the unwelcomed sleepwalker. What was happening at that moment was a dream come true. I was being given some time back on “the card;” I was receiving the impossible refund!

As my child and I laid in the darkness of her bedroom, I began rubbing her tummy just like I did when she was a baby. Immediately, I wondered how many “Belly Rub Credits” were left on “the card.” Determining that she was almost 9 and might possibly decide at ANY DAY she is too old for this, I proceeded to rub until my arm lost all feeling and bordered on permanent nerve damage.

Soon my child was breathing heavily in a peaceful slumber. I studied her face. After all, she was still here, under my roof, in my care. In 680 Saturdays, she’d be getting ready to head out of her college dorm room without a coat wearing shoes that would eventually lead to back problems. After drinking “Boones Farm” straight from the bottle, she would dance all night with a gaggle of friends, and then eat a non-organic hot dog handled by a street vendor who very rarely washed his hands.

Needless to say, I cried myself to sleep that night.

The next day, my mental state had not improved. My thought process centered around “the card.” How many more episodes of Little House on the Prairie will we watch together before my kids stage a revolt and demand iCarly? How many more times will I watch her sweetly pluck the strings on her tiny ukulele before she dyes her hair pink and decides to play the drums?

While some of my new “awareness” was causing positive behavior change, thinking in terms of the time I had left was making me feel sad. It was also preventing me from living in the moment, which is what my “Hands Free” journey is all about.

I decided to take a moment to look inward. Why was I having such an intense feeling about the information in this article? Why did Dr. Rotbart’s message strike such a chord in me?

Maybe because the other morning, she made her own scrambled egg all by herself.

Maybe because the two of them walked to a neighbor’s house down the street and kindly told me they wouldn’t need me to accompany them anymore.

Maybe because while shopping for spring clothes they informed me they only wanted to match on “special occasions” from now on.

Maybe because we recently boxed up books to take to Goodwill, and they had no trouble tossing in beloved favorites that had been read to them at least a thousand times.

Maybe when the two of them sing in the car, I strain to detect one ounce of baby voice in their musical stylings and hear none.

Maybe because time is fleeting and I can feel it, see it, mourn it … so much more than I could in the long, exhausting baby days.

Maybe because my kids don’t need me as much anymore, and I realize this is just the start of what’s to come.

Although I know calculating how much time I have on “the card” is not a healthy, nor is it a productive way to live, I don’t regret reading that article. I needed the wake up call it produced. I needed to be shaken and reminded that having to sweep up the crumbs beneath their chairs every single night is not really a “problem.”

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I needed to be reminded that each time she still grasps my hand as we cross a busy street or asks me to “c‘mere” so she can show me a ladybug are moments to stop and savor.

I needed to be reminded that I could complain a bit less, cherish a bit more, let go of the have-tos and live a little more.

Because God knows, that day will come when I stand inside her closet, and I will be able to see the floor. There will be no brightly-colored clothes haphazardly hung from hangers along the narrow walls, no dirty clothes that had missed the mark of the hamper.

And I will place my hand on all that is left. And when I do, I will be so grateful that I hugged her that day rather than scolding her for writing her name on the wall of the closet.

That day was Saturday #286. It was the day I realized time was fleeting, and a moment of exasperation is as much a gift of time as is a moment of joy; it just comes without the pretty packaging.

About the writer

Rachel has been providing readers with simple, non-intimidating, and motivating methods to let go of distraction and connect with their loved ones since starting the blog "Hands Free Mama" in 2010. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two children who inspire her daily. Her book, Hands Free Mama, is in stores now.


Soul 2 years ago

I have 927 Saturdays left. Just turning three months, she’s already so long she’s fitting in to 12 month clothes, her six month clothes are starting to get too small already. I started crying today when I realized she’s growing up too fast for me. She’s not going to be my LITTLE Little Bit, she’ll be big…I don’t want her to grow up so fast, I want to cherish every moment. She’s already getting two teeth trying to cut in, she’s started bracing herself up on her arms for tummy time, she’s rolling over…she ‘walks’ when we hold her upright. She’s going too fast for me. I don’t want her firsts to pass me by, but I’m afraid they have already started. I missed her first real smile, and I didn’t take the time to notice exactly what the crIes meant as her teeth are starting to come through. 927 Saturdays is not nearly long enough…

Britta Love Spencer 2 years ago

I work every Saturday. Now I feel like Shit. I would say “but we always enjoy our weeknights together” but now I’ve lost those nights off from work too. So I get to spend weekday mornings from 6:15 am until 7:45 am and weekday afternoons from 3:30 until 5pm with them. Yes, that’s only 3 (very busy) hours per day with my children.

Whitney Shaffer 2 years ago

I don’t like this approach and won’t be spending time worrying about how many days I have left before my son leaves for college. To me, it seems like a waste of time and a source of stress.

LMB 2 years ago

They still need you. Even more as they get older. Just in different ways. As they grow, you will grow, and they will keep you on your toes.

Marlo Nittoli Boehlke 2 years ago

This was a great read. Definitely got me teary eyed!!

Shelly Suderman Loving 2 years ago

My kids only have 940 to be a kid… Playing with friends, going to camp, being carefree…with or without me.

Amber Justis 2 years ago

Awww this is a sweet reminder for sure Marissa Iniguez. Especially after Nick Dilts and I have been struggling with jaymasons sleeping lately lol

Nicole Lynn 2 years ago

This did not make me cry. I’m not a mom who feels the need to calculate how many Saturdays are left before they leave the house. I live in the present moment, and enjoy each day. Focusing so much on the “future” takes away from the here and now. We just enjoyed a coloring contest in the kitchen with my 3 year old and 8 year old after lunch. I felt everyone had a good time, and I’m not thinking to myself “another Sunday lost!”. I rejoice as my children grow up, and do enjoy time with my spouse (we went to dinner last night, kid free). Each moment in parenting is wonderful, from infancy to them going to college. Just enjoy the experience and live in the present. There is nothing to be sad about, and if there is, change whatever it is that you are doing.

Kia-Lynne Silverman 2 years ago

Considering I just experienced my 2nd Saturday without my Girl this really made me cry

Jennifer Duncan 2 years ago

Just yesterday I napped with my little one. I woke up before her. I picked her up and laid her almost three year old body on my belly and held her til she woke. I enjoyed every snore, drool and scratch from her jagged toe nails

Vicky Lynn 2 years ago

Stupidy stinky tears ::sniff::

Melissa Colella 2 years ago

Here in Toronto your kids need to know how to write their name, the alphabet and how to count to 20 before entering kindergarten. So I send my oldest to preschool, read to her and spend time teaching her.

Teresa Heath 2 years ago

If it was art we would have no problem. It’s flash cards. 100 high frequency words and the alphabet.

Megan Arbster 2 years ago

This story was poorly written. We all experience these feelings, but that’s part of aging and growing up. Try splitting your time with another family because of split custody, now that really sucks. You can waste your time being depressed and pathetic about it, or you can choose your parenting moments. Not everyone is perfect, but the moments that count can be remembered for a long time.

Jeiselyn Angelica Del Barro-Selva 2 years ago

I’m that mom that likes everything neat, and tidy.. Haven’t realized that I have about the same number of Saturdays left with my daughter as well.. I spend as much time as I can with both my children. They are all I think about, the whole entire day. But again, I do nag at them for leaving a mess, or making a mess on themselves when I just finished bathing them. Useless and selfish am I? I think so… I’m so glad I read this. ❤️ (& yes, I am BALLING my eyes out. Don’t care what anyone says about it.)

Kristy Thresher 2 years ago

Great read, but actually a sad realization!!

Rekha 2 years ago

That was a really beautiful and moving post. I hace two girls aged 5 and 8. I have an OCD for cleanliness because of which I keep shouting at them and scolding them. Your post made me cry for all those silly reasons because of which I have lost Saturdays. Indeed a much needed wake up call.

Natalie Summers 2 years ago

Love this x

Hollie Brown 2 years ago

Mostly everyone on here are haters of this article and say the devote every waking hour of their day to their kids-

Cynthia Jones 2 years ago

Love this article! I’m cherishing every Saturday with my little ladies, especially the ones without soccer games :)

Keeva Williams 2 years ago

If me and my daughter have a bond like my mom and I. It will be better than her being small. I will have a new best friend to talk, cry, and laugh with. Me and my mom have a bond like no other. I was her baby, her youngest now I’m her best friend. I use that with caution I respect her as my mom, but we are there for each other and we talk about everything. It just goes from one loving phase to the next. I miss her being a baby, is why I still have her pic on my Facebook, but she will be an awesome woman that I will love even more. I love her more and more each day. She started head start 3 months ago, I cried the first three days, but when I watched her grow so much it made me happy about something else. I was a full time mom and student for the first 3 years of her life. Those were VERY hard times. I lived off of my GI Bill and had her 24/7 GLUED to me. I’m also glad to have some time alone as some others have stated.

Danny Lindsay Smith 2 years ago

Time really does fly…. I think it’s important to remember that we really only get a little bit of time with them and that we have the power to make their childhood memories happy ones. My oldest is 16 and my youngest is turning 2… I am already looking back wondering where all the time went and thankful for all the good memories we have made this far…

Belle Sommerfeld 2 years ago

Krystal Who :( not enough time in their little lives

    Krystal Who 2 years ago

    So glad I don’t get sitters constantly and go out. So glad I choose to drink at home, when I feel the need.


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