This week I've been thinking a lot about how precious the time that my family spends together as a whole family is. We rarely eat dinner together during the week because my husband works start-up hours and often isn't home until after the girls go to bed. Their early schedule doesn't help matters. They are hungry for dinner between 5:00 pm and 5:30 pm and begging to be put to bed starting at 6:30. I do my best to distract them with stories until 7:00 pm or else I fear going to bed too early will mean they'll be up at 6:00 am. So J. comes home, peeks in on them, gives them kisses they won't remember in the morning, and eats his dinner alone.
The nights he does get home in time for bedtime, the usual calmness of our bedtime story time is interrupted by excited squeals and shrieks of, "Papa! Papa!" There's no keeping the girls in bed when they hear his key in the lock. I feign annoyance, playing bad cop and shooing the girls finally to bed, but not before J. has constructed an elaborate ruse (never the same twice) to get them into bed, "Meow like a kitty all the way to your room while hopping, then get under your covers and bark like a dog. First one in bed who does those things gets five extra kisses," he says. "I'm gonna be first," they giggle. My heart explodes with happiness and love from the cuteness of it all.
Mornings used to be family time together every day, but a couple nights a week, J. has to return to the office or data center for late night work and when that happens we let him sleep in. It's hard being "on" from 7:20 am (when I get up) until 7:00 pm when the girls go bed especially since I work from home and am also the biker to school, the carpool driver, school and church volunteer, swimming lessons shuttle-er (twice a day on Thursdays), and go-to playmate, but I try to remember that this schedule won't last forever.
That's why the time we actually get to spend together, usually on the weekend, is so sacred.
We protect our weekend time fiercely, especially lately since we've both been so busy. We usually kick off the weekend with a family movie night on Fridays. Saturday is spent lazing around in bed—all four of us—then we usually head out for breakfast together. J. is the main cheerleader rallying our family to get up and at 'em. We always go to the same place for breakfast and while we sit outside chatting about plans for the day or reading the paper, the girls run around chasing each other or picking flowers. Their excitement and energy-level is amped up on the weekend, and I can see how much pleasure they take in our family being all together.
On Sundays I take the girls to our UU church for the morning while J. gets a chance to sleep in. This is the one part of the week that is just for me. The girls go to their RE classes while I get full up on inspiration to get me through the coming week.
This day is the most precious of all days since we know the weekend is about to end. Protecting our weekends has required some sacrifices: turning down some birthday party invitations, choosing not to entertain at home as much (something we both love to do in less busy times), and letting some of those nagging home projects go.
I used to feel a little guilty about "checking out" for the weekend, about it but I don't anymore. When we lived in Portland, J. worked from home and we were together almost 24/7 for 16 months. The first months of Wallie's life. I always say that time was magical, and I feel like our weekends now are little respites of magic. We can, for 48 hours, forget about work and stress and just focus on each other. Frustrations and tiny resentments from the week melt away by Saturday afternoon.
Lately I've been thinking about ways our family can completely escape. Could we take off and live in Europe for a year? We've been talking about this recently. The upside to renting, especially in this economy, is that it feeds our shared sense of wanderlust. I know we could pick up and move anywhere, just our little family of four, and be fine. We are the people we like the most in the whole world. The people we love the most. Our own best friends. At least it feels that way on the weekend.