Saturday Night. Around 8:30pm. My House.
I’m in the middle of cleaning up crumbs and napkins from a snack I gave my kids. I’m pretty sure they’re going to still be hungry because most of what they had is on the floor. They are watching Nickelodeon or Disney or whatever network has an abundance of singing and dancing child actors. I’m halfway through folding the laundry before I was relegated to clean up detail. My kids are mesmerized by the television, unaware of anything else, until I get in their way cleaning up. I hear high pitched grumbles from them. I tell them, “You could go to bed?” The grumbles cease. My wife has been upstairs for the past hour. She is either trying to figure how many bed sheets she would need to repel down the side of the house or she’s still going through the clothing in the girls’ closets (my guess is she’s tying the bed sheets together). I finish cleaning up and go back to trying to fold tiny panties into a tight square when my kids ask, “Daddy, can you sit with us?”
My Saturday nights weren’t always like this. Prior to my oldest daughter being born (or as I refer to them, the ‘Golden Age’) my Saturday nights were like a blank notebook. I could write down whatever I wanted. An impromptu run to Atlantic City, bar hopping with friends, just going out to eat and catching a movie that wasn’t rated ‘G’, anything and everything was fair game. It was for my wife and I to pick and choose. It was a glorious time in our lives. Sometimes my wife and I look back on those years with the sort of fondness you might expect if we were talking about a loved one (I told you, the ‘Golden Age’)
But on July 23rd, 2002, when Hannah was born, Saturday’s as myself and my wife had known them, were gone.
The crying baby with an empty stomach and a diaper full of formula cared little for what we wanted to do. The hedonistic lifestyle the two of us led vanished as quickly as that dirty diaper we were changing. We did manage to keep our Saturdays on life support, until our second daughter was born. The two of them pulled the cord on our Saturday’s figurative life support.
Our responsibility to only ourselves had been replaced by the responsibility to our two girls. Suddenly, road trips and bar tours didn’t seem quite as important as what our kids wanted to do (play dolls, makeup parties, watching anything with a Jonas brother in it, coloring…I think you get the point). This isn’t to say that my wife and I don’t ever get out on a Saturday night without our two tax credits in tow, however, we just can’t pick up and go at the drop of a hat and hope the dog will take care of them. Meticulous planning and logistics are involved before going. While it doesn’t happen too often anymore, we do manage a night out here and there (a night out that usually ends before 10:30pm) And when we are out, alone, our conversation inevitably turns to:
My wife: “So what do you think the kids are doing?”
Me: “I don’t know? Playing?”
My wife: “Do you miss them?”
Me: “No. No…yeah, a little.”
My wife: “Me too. I’m going to call them.”
Me: “Well, I don’t miss them that much.” And then I get kicked under the table as my wife is dialing her phone.
This Saturday we spent the day playing, kicking the soccer ball, making lunches, kissing away the pain of scraped knees, giving baths and now, I am cleaning up snacks. I am folding wash. I am looking at the clock because whatever time it says, it feels like its 2am. My wife is on the second floor under a mountain of old kids clothing trying to figure out what fits and what doesn’t (or she’s almost finished with that bed sheet rope). I’m being called by my kids to sit between them to watch a show we’ve all seen at least a dozen times before. I could think about Saturdays that used to be filled with Happy Hours and betting against the dealer’s soft 17 but instead, I sit down on the sofa between my two little girls. I put my arms around both of them to pull them close.
There was a time in our lives when my wife and I only cared about ourselves. We came and we went where and when we pleased. Looking back on that ‘Golden Age’ in our lives, I really enjoyed it and still think of those days fondly; but those days have passed. I am not the same person. Those days I was just Jimmy. Today, I’m Daddy. What I think about now, as my kids and I cuddle together, is how I couldn’t image any better way to spend my Saturday nights.