September 3, 2010

Just You and Me, Buddy

After Henry and I drop the twins off at kindergarten, we walk toward our car and I say to him, "Just you and me, buddy"---which is exactly what my mom used to say to my little brother after I'd left for school. Then Henry and I go to the grocery store to get ice cream, or we go to the library, or we go home and read books, and the whole time he TALKS and TALKS and TALKS---and instead of saying, "Just a minute, Henry" or "It's someone else's turn to talk now, Henry" or "Henry, you're INTERRUPTING," I say, "Why?" and "Oh, do you?" and "What would you like to do next?" and "Hey, do you want to go outside with me and see how the sunflowers are doing?"

There are disadvantages to being the youngest (handmedown EVERYTHING, and everyone perpetually thinks of you as a total baby), but there are advantages too. In many ways it's like being the firstborn, except you get to have your turn at being Only when you're old enough to appreciate it. Henry gets to be the Only for 2 hours a day this year, and next year it'll be more like 6 hours a day, unless I can't face that kind of quality time let him be in preschool for half of it. And when everyone else strikes out on their own, he'll get the full sunshine of his parents' attention---which he may value considerably less when he's 16 and wishes NO ONE would pay attention to what he's up to (*pause to kiss him and squeeze him because NO, HE CANNOT EVER BE 16, SORRY NO*).

Plus, he gets his "only child" treatment when his siblings are aware he's getting it, which is valuable currency, especially in a large family. If a sixth grader thinks YOU'RE lucky? That is GOOD STUFF.

It's good for me, too. It's like the mirror image of my experience with my firstborn. When it was just me and Rob, I thought of him as a big kid; when it's just me and Henry, I think of him as my baby. "Just me and Rob" was business as usual; "just me and Henry" is a break from the usual. Not a BREAK-break in the "lunch break" or "taking a break" sense, I hasten to clarify, since in many ways I find it more difficult to have "just one" than to have the entire roiling mass---but a break FROM THE USUAL, the way doing a different job at work is a break from the usual. And it IS a break from the usual "several people talking at the same time ALL THE TIME" thing, and from the "so many people! wanting so many things from me! all at once!" thing. It's nice to be able to FOCUS on ONE THING---even if that one thing talks incessantly.

Looking at YOU, Henry

33 comments:

Fran said...

I was born a couple weeks after my only sibling started Kindergarten and my mom always told me how neat it was that she could focus totally on me for those hours my brother was in school. We have 2 in school now and our daughter is still home with us and it is fun to do little things with her, just the way she wants to do them!

Erin said...

Very, very cool.

I SAVOR one-on-one time with my two older(ish) kids who are able to appreciate it.

Shelly Overlook said...

This is so awesome. & damn but if he isn't a cute kid!

Shelly said...

This is so sweet. I just love Henry, he is a little doll.

Pickles and Dimes said...

Awww. He is such a cutie pie.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

What a cutie! How nice that you are getting to spend some time alone together.

Joanne said...

There are four in my family and we are all so close in age it feels like we are the same age, sometimes. My numbers two and three are only 16 months apart, but with my middle babe starting preschool last week, I can sort of feel it already. When it's just me and the baby, I feel like it's so much EASIER to go places, she's not so demanding and doesn't order me around nearly as much. She is 16 months old, so it's right around the corner, I'm trying to enjoy the quiet while I have it.
Henry seems like such a big boy to me lately. Maybe it's that hair!

Erica said...

I officially request "after" pics of The Hair, please.

Also, isn't it strange that other people's children seem to grow so! much! faster! than our own? I'm looking at this picture of Henry and marveling at how he can be so big already. Seems like yesterday that he was a teeny bebeh.

Whimsy said...

I absolutely LOVE this concept of bookending the child-having experience, how some of the things you had with your first, you have again with your last (with a slight twist). As always, Swistle, you lend me your perspective and I just adore it (and you).

Thank you!

And I sort of love imagining you and Henry taking on the world for two hours every day.

Melissa said...

You are so right! Next year it will be the last of 5 (the older 4 will all be in college) and the baby will be entering HS.

I keep telling her...next fall, just YOU!! Just the 3 of us at home! Sometimes she looks thrilled (she gets to pick a new bedroom!) and other times she looks very, very scared at the prospect of all our attention on her! SO EMBARRASSING OMG MOM STOP

el-e-e said...

Oh, I ADORE this post. How great. I can just picture you sitting with your FULL attention just on Henry. Cuuuuute!

I love when I get time with JUST ONE kid, as well. Even though I only have 2, it's special. My own Mom used to leave one of us with the babysitter occassionally, and take the other one out for a day of shopping, lunch, and fun. It meant SO much to me to have a special day, and Mom all to myself.

Lora said...

I always look at the twins as a marker of what my son will be doing in a year from now. And this whole kindergarten thing has me feeling some sort of way.

I am excited, of course, but now that it is so close I feel sort of like I need to puke.

Shannon said...

My son was 1 when his sister started preschool. I have become more and more appreciative of the fact that they are three years apart over the last few years as I have gotten to spend more time with just him. It is precious to be able to have time with each child individually. You're right that when it is the first at home alone they feel big and when it is the last, or subsequent children they feel little. I am in the process of adopting a third and my second is now about to start preschool By the time #3 joins us he will likely be in school full time and I am kind of happy that the timing is working out so I will have lots of time alone with #3 like I did with the previous siblings.

Jess said...

Oh, this makes me so happy that I almost feel TEARFUL about it. I mean, OBVIOUSLY that's because of the pregnancy hormones, BUT STILL.

Sam said...

I have a soft spot for Henry, you know, because I discovered your blog right when you were expecting him. I was SO EXCITED when he was born - plus, I had my own baby two months later. I feel like we've raised these kiddos together.

This whole thing you're talking about is pretty much why I'm waiting until my FIRST baby is ready for kindergarten before I have a second baby. Okay, it's not the only reason, but emotionally it's definitely a factor. I love that Thomas is SO much easier to take with me these days. Even if he does want to help push the buggy around the grocery store...

Trina said...

I am so looking forward to my daughter to start Kindergarten (the first day is on Thursday). I mean, it scares me a little and when I really think about it I get weepy (she's my first born). But, I get one on one time with my son who is so awesome when his sister isn't around

Anonymous said...

Love it! My husband is off on a trip with our older child for a few days, and I'm really enjoying the one-on-one time with my just 5-y-o. She's so much fun to be with, especially when the two of them aren't together, fighting about everything or getting too wild.

Lisa said...

I'm enjoying that same time with my 3 year old while the 4 olders are in school. The next one up is in full day, so I'm enjoying a full day with just her. And I'll get to do it next year, too, but probably break it up with preschool.

I've thought the same things as you, but you say it so well. Enjoy your Henry time.

Melospiza said...

You know what else is awesome? It sounds like Henry enjoys his mom-only time. My daughter used to spend our alone time moping about on couches and asking when her big brother would be home. (Then when he WAS home, THAT was when she decided it time to read some books. ARG.)

Nicole said...

My older son is in Grade One and my younger one in morning kindergarten and yesterday was the first afternoon with just the two of us. THE TALKING. Who knew he had so much to say?

sara said...

That's me. Youngest of 4 by a good gap. I got to grow up with siblings AND as an only. Odd experience, but unique. Additionally I want to squeeze Henry's adorableness!

Maggie said...

I loved being an only child until I hit the teen years, then I desperately wished I had a sibling to distract my parents from what I wanted to do.

Due to various circumstances my son was 6.5 when my daughter was born and it was so great for him to get to be an only for that time and my daughter gets to be an only on the other end. I hope it works out well.

Brenna said...

Ditto on everything! I had my third baby right after my second started kindergarten, and its SO nice to have that uninterrupted time with her. She's my "all day buddy".

Brooke said...

Our son is 8 year younger than our next-youngest child, so when that child heads off to college, D will be 10 or so. He will be an only through his middle- and high-school years.

Bethsix said...

Never thought of it this way. When I'm alone time with any of my kids, I'm always like, "WOW. You're really NEAT." I like the idea of the younger kids, as the older kids get older and quieter and eventually LEAVE ME, really getting some of what the older kids got when they were younger. I miss not having a gaggle and just being able to LISTEN and slow down.

d e v a n said...

Oh, I love this post! Love, love! It gives me something nice to look forward to in a few years when just the baby will be at home with me.

StephLove said...

My kids are five years apart. We didn't plan it that way but one advantage was that the older one started kindergarten when the younger one was only five months old, so I was able to have a lot of one-one-one time with each of them when they were little.

Have your other kids gone to preschool? I've known some kids who didn't and had a really tough time in kindergarten. Your mileage may vary, obviously, but I thought I'd throw that in.

GratefulTwinMom said...

Wow. You captured the spirit of alone time with one child perfectly. I am always trying to carve out some of this with each of my twins, who, of course as you know with twins, are together all!the!time! Mine are often telling me they wish they were only children. I know they don't mean it, but if I get alone time to focus on each one, they'll love it when they see each other again.

Marie Green said...

Marin and I have had at least 2 hours/3x/week when the twins were in preschool, and 7 hours/week when they were in Kindergarten/1st grade to ourselves. I loved it. I loved having those 2 hours when she was a teensy baby, and I loved having all day when she was a toddler. In fact, at our "mommy and me" class, they were always emphasizing that we needed to "focus on quality time with your child" while we were there, and I often felt like saying DUDES, if ONLY you knew how much "quality time" I get with this child. I wanna talk to the other moms!

She's going to preschool this year (2 hours/3x a week) and it'll be the first time I've had ZERO children in my care... ever. Well, not ever, as the twins started preschool 2 weeks before she was born, so I had those two weeks of kid-free time too. But now? ALL YEAR. Weird.

Swistle said...

StephLove- The first two went to preschool, but with the twins the tuition x 2 was too much and we didn't, so I hope "growing up in a larger family" helps with that. With Henry, we'll probably send him.

Stimey said...

I know so exactly what you mean. Quinn and I had a LOT of alone time for three years while his brothers attended far more school than he did. Same as Henry, he talked ALL THE TIME, but it was really cool to have him as my little sidekick.

Rebecca said...

Well, that first paragraph made me cry. Having the same experience this year with my almost-3-yr-old girl now that big brother is in kindergarten.
Very nicely written.

Kelsey said...

Even with only one other child at home I'm surprised at the difference it makes to be one-on-one w/ Michael. And we only have Friday mornings!