For most of us, weekends are a reprieve from crazy schedules, a bracketed period where, free from office strictures, we catch up with laundry and cleaning. We perform, sometimes reluctantly, those quotidian tasks that one day may be farmed out to robots. Then if we’re lucky, somewhere between errands, squeezed in after children’s activities, we pursue our vision of fun, whatever that might be.
Weekends, I think, make us better, saner people.
I’ve noticed, however, that the manner in which I spend those precious two days has evolved into something I might not have imagined a few years earlier. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s maturity, maybe it’s the recognition that the calendar takes no prisoners.
Once upon a time I counted down the days until TGIF, plotting a distinct kind of entertainment. It was all about what movie we’d watch, what friends we’d join for dinner, what party we might attend. Invariably those events were the proverbial carrot at the end of a stick, the reward for long hours of sometimes thankless labor.
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I still look forward to such moments, of course, but now the source of entertainment is different. I continue to like theater and the company of friends, the discovery of a new restaurant and the comfort of couple-time with The Hubby. But oh, I so anticipate time with the grandchildren.
This has surprised me because, for so long and in some of the most grueling moments of child-rearing, I imagined the luxury of time all to myself, without petulant demands or whiny interruptions. Now I go in search of those childish exigencies. They provide a contrast to my professional ones.
"Please, pretty please," whimpers the 4-year-old, angling for a second piece of chocolate. "We don’t have to tell Mommy."
Or from the 3-year-old: "I’ll go to the potty if you go to the potty next to me."
Or from the deal-making 6-year-old: "If we go out on the scooter first, I’ll do my homework after."
A couple of decades ago this kind of wheedling would’ve exasperated me. Now, with a shorter timeline but a deeper perspective, I seek these situations. They’re comical routines, fodder for the stories I share with my friends. It helps, of course, that we’re exposed to our grandchildren’s faults and frailties in periodic blasts — namely, weekends. I suspect that if these were daily encounters, they’d lose their luster.
I was among the first in my group to become a grandparent and for a while my friends — sidelined by the trend to postpone marriage and children — were tone deaf to the very moments I thought hilarious and precious. (Oh look! She’s stacking those alphabet blocks. Isn’t she brilliant?) They seemed oblivious to the delicious pleasure of cradling the future, of pressing it close, closer still, to a heart overflowing with happiness. They didn’t understand how one’s outlook on life changed with the advent of another generation or how a grandchild imbues one with a truer sense of responsibility.
But now as my friends begin to assume the role of grandparents, they get it, they really do, and it’s amusing to observe how they, like me, have learned to rearrange weekends. Where we once sought to leave behind the stress of children for a few blessed hours, we now actively seek it. Saturday night babysitting has suddenly become, if not de rigueur, at least fashionable among my set.
Weekends shared with grimy hands, skinned knees and silly noisemaking make us, paradoxically, better, saner people. Also,I’ve learned, exponentially more exhausted.