By KJ DELL'ANTONIA
Nine hundred and forty Saturdays: I didn’t do that math, Dr. Harley Rotbart, author of “No Regrets Parenting,” did. Between the day your child is born, and the time he or she turns 18, you get 940 Saturdays — and 260 of them, Dr. Rotbart just reminded me, are gone by her fifth birthday.
My office is littered with “parenting books.” If we went by sheer number of pages of advice available, I should be the best mother around — something that the kindergarten teacher who, just this morning, told me that if I’d just bring her a comb, she’d do my youngest daughter’s hair, would be the first to say I’m not even in the running for — and that was before we both spotted the giant hole in the same child’s pants. The books, as abundant as they are, aren’t helping.
But Dr. Rotbart’s “No Regrets Parenting” is something special, and something a little different. Dr. Rotbart has nothing to say on the importance of grooming. He’s a pediatrician looking back on parenting his own children, and I think he would let both braids and pants slide. The result is a book that’s less about parenting minute-to-minute, and more about how those 940 Saturdays, or Mondays, or whatever moment you’d pull out of your week, add up.
Dr. Rotbart (who wrote “My Son, the Groom” for Motherlode a while back) has had his Saturdays. His children are grown. But while he’s obviously aware that children don’t stay children forever, he hasn’t fallen into the “Carpe Diem” trap of what the Momastery blogger Glennon Melton wrote so passionately about this past January: that whole, infuriating idea that young parents should “enjoy every moment” because it goes by “so fast.”
Dr. Rotbart knows that the days are long, and that telling a parent to “seize” them — when child A is singing “Come on, vamanos! Everybody let’s poop!” and child B is hitting him with her “Dora” doll in the drugstore aisle while child C wants to know what a “Tampax” is and child D just took off toward the Band-Aids — is just asking to get punched in the nose. It’s the years that are short, as anyone who has ever looked at the calendar and tried to figure out how it got to be March already when it was just New Year’s yesterday can attest. Dr. Rotbart writes to help us turn painfully long minutes into funny moments, and he does it practically, in one- or two-page essays on everything from ice cream sundaes to college counseling. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s more about being a parent than it is about actually parenting the kids themselves — no star charts here.
But even without Dr. Rotbart’s book, you can appreciate his powerful reminder of the inevitable passage of our time as active parents just by reading the title of this post. Nine hundred and forty Saturdays. One of them is tomorrow. So, what are you doing this weekend?