You and me, three days a week for six straight hours. You, me, the dog, the errands, the cleanup and mess-making, the NPR in the background and the openness of the day before us like classified ads. We could do this? or maybe that looks fun? We could see what our friends are up to? or try to get stuff knocked off the to-do list? I could work while you play, or we could read together about knights and castles, King Arthur or dinosaurs or whatever you want. Your choice. It’s just you and me.
It hasn’t escaped me that this is a finite scenario – a delicious treat with an expiration date. One sister in school and the other still in utero, you are destined to be the center of a sister sandwich and for better or for worse, you and I won’t likely be alone much in the years to come. Sure, a quiet hour while the baby naps and your big sister is in school, or a day down the road where you stay home sick and we cuddle on the couch and watch movies together, but those times will be brief, unexpected. This, now, is on the calendar. Three days a week, just you and me.
I notice you differently outside the shadow of your big sister. When she is here she’s in charge and your every movement is a response to hers, an aftershock of her dominance. It is neither good nor bad, just the nature of siblings. Without her I see your maturity; next to her you’re still a baby. Without her I hear your voice alone; with her it’s part of a duet in which you very often are assigned the backup harmonies. Without her I watch you master new skills, focused and independent; when she’s around you have a constant helper, someone who holds your hand when you don’t even know you need a hand to hold.
And then there’s the little sister who isn’t here yet. How will you handle a baby in the house? I worry about this sometimes. I wonder if you’ll grow up before my eyes, putting on your own shoes while I change an impossibly tiny diaper, going up and down the stairs alone because I’m nursing and can’t be there to spot you. I wonder if I should give you a little shove out of the nest of babyness while I can – potty train you, move you to a big kid bed, teach you to dress yourself – or whether I should just let these last months of being the youngest unfold however they will, and enjoy them for what they are.
I didn’t plan this built-in special time together, or even think much about it until school started and here we were, just the two of us. But I am grateful for it, achingly grateful.
What do you want to do today, my still-littlest one, my middle child, my only boy? It’s up to you. It’s just you and me.