Yesterday was busy, as Sundays typically are in our household. We had to be at church early for Topher's preschool concert, then rushed home to call our realtor to request a second look at the absolutely perfect house we toured on Saturday. Both kids have been sick all week so there was an extra dose of grumpiness and whining thrown into the mix. I really wanted to put together a quick lunch and tuck both kids in for much needed naps (so I could nap myself!) - but then I glanced over at the couch. Topher was curled up under his blankie, watching Special Agent Oso and sucking his fingers.
I remember when we used to swaddle him in that blanket - now that he's almost five, his feet stick out and get cold unless he wears socks! He has the same blankie, the same special stuffies, and gets the same comfort from sucking his index and middle finger - but in his mind, he's all grown up.
"Hey, buddy," I called into the living room. "Wanna go on a date?"
We started the tradition of regular Mommy and Topher dates two days after Ellie was born. She was getting so much one on one time with me that I worried he would feel neglected. Sometimes we go to Waves and order Belgian hot chocolates and pastries, sometimes we take the dog for a long walk, sometimes we wander the mall and tell knock-knock jokes. It doesn't really seem to matter to Topher what we do, as long as it's just the two of us.
He threw his babies to the ground and leapt off the couch. "Now? Can we go now?"
Why the heck not?
We put on our sunscreen and our sneakers and headed out the door while Ellie climbed into Nathan's lap to watch hockey.
We had no sooner set foot on the sidewalk than Topher reached up to hold my hand. "Where are we going on our hot date, Mommy?"
I squeezed his hand. "How about the farmer's market?"
He wrinkled his nose. "Do they have bouncy castles?"
"They might today."
"Okay! Let's go!" He skipped beside me, chatting the entire way. "Is that an owl? I like owls. Wow, did you see that ant? I think ants are beautiful, Mommy. Why do they call them dandelions? They're yellow like lions but they don't roar!"
The first thing we saw as we entered the market was the bouncy castle. Of course. Topher wouldn't budge until he'd had a turn, so we waited in line while the attendant let five kids go in at a time for as long as they wanted. I'm glad I was wearing comfortable sneakers! Topher bounced and fell and squealed in delight - until he noticed the petting zoo.
"Can we go, Mommy? Can we? Can we?" He scrambled out of the castle and dove for his shoes.
The petting zoo was packed but Topher had one goal: "I want to hold something, Mommy!"
"Do you mean like a rabbit?" I asked, reaching for the fluffy brown furball under the chair he was sitting on. "We-ell ... okay. But I really want to hold one of those."
I looked where he was pointing, expecting to see a puppy or a kitten or something equally cuddly.
It was a goat.
I didn't think that was such a good idea but one of the attendants plopped the thing on Topher's lap - and it actually seemed quite content to sit there! Topher wrapped his arms around his new friend and gave it a big kiss on its hairy little head. "Ooh, you're such a cute little goaty goat! I just love you! Aren't you just the cutest little thing?"
Clearly he's heard me talk to puppies.
He gave that goat some serious snuggles before it got bored and jumped off his lap. His lower lip was staring to quiver ("Mommy! The goat doesn't love me anymore!") but two of his friends from school showed up at just the right time!
As a mom who works from home, I'm with my kids all day, every day. When Topher whines for me to spend time with him, my first instinct is to say "I spend time with you ALL THE TIME." What more do you need, child? But it's become increasingly clear that one of Topher's love languages is quality time. Mommy and Topher dates are the highlight of his week!
But the truth is, sometimes I don't feel like going out. Sometimes I have work to do, or things to get done around the house - sometimes I really just want to take a nap! But yesterday I was reminded that it really doesn't take much effort on my part to make a huge impact on my little man. (Seriously, give him a castle to bounce in and a goat to cuddle and his day is made!)
And last night it hit me: It won't be long before he'll be reaching for a different girl's hand, squeezing it three times to say "I. Love. You." And it won't be long before that lower lip will start quivering - over a girl instead of a goat.
In his mind, he's already all grown up - but it won't be long before that's the reality.
I wish he could stay little forever.