That is how many days Jay and I have left together in our father-and-son preschool adventure.
Yeah, we have more than 35 days until he goes off to the 2 hour and 15 minute-a-day toddler-on-steroid craziness known as universal pre-kindergarten, or UPK. We have camping trips, trips to the shore, hiking and biking with family and friends outings, but those are with the family, with friends, with others. Those are planned. Already on the calendar. Mother packs the bags, father apologizes as he tries to clean out the car, Jay wonders what all the fuss is over,
a day with dad.
A day with son.
Last night I asked Jay what we were going to do tomorrow. His eyes and voices brightened.
"Daddy? We're going to spend the WHOLE DAY TOGETHER!"
No need for plans. That was enough.
It is enough.
We'll have more whole days, together, in the summers, in the future, but he and I will both be another summer older. His fingers will grow, and be able to grab more than just my index finger as we walk the rail trail, if he wants to hold my hand at all.
At some point friends his own age will take over, and a whole day of riding bikes and playing ball, blowing things up, fishing, hitting things with sticks, will be the best possible way to spend a day.
My relevance will evolve to some other form. I don't know what that is yet, but I didn't know anything about this job when I started and have done okay at figuring it out on-the-run thus far.
I have been going a bit crazy lately. I spent the last two months of winter fighting rather severe cold-weather-induced asthma. Once that started to pass, I got hit with a late flu virus that beat me without mercy for about ten days. For the past two weeks, as life has begun to renew itself here, seasonal allergies have hit hard. My lungs are just done with it all. My body wants to rest.
So, I thought about taking Jay to daycare for an extra day this week, and just sleeping all day. It's been rainy, and there has been little opportunity to get the work done that is needed on the farm (Friday I pick up 130 trees and shrubs from Warren County Soil and Water, and next week my two packages of honey bees, containing about 10,000 bees each, will arrive). What's an extra day in the long run?
I did a little thinking. And I pulled out a calendar.
35 is a very, very finite number.
When we decided to have a child, I made a commitment that he would not grow up as a full-time daycare kid, managed among masses and a number in the child/ care-giver ratio. He does indeed go to daycare, in another person's home, a few days a week, as a part of a larger plan to help him socialize with peers. Beyond that, for two or three days a week,
"We're going to spend the WHOLE DAY TOGETHER!" It's one of Jay's favorite things to say, and one of my favorite things to hear.
I can see the end of those days. These days. Like today, what should we do today, go to the library? Color something? Walk in the woods? Go find a playground? The whole day, OUR day, together.
These days have become easier, more fulfilling, and are hitting their peak of innocence and discovery. He can walk farther, stay out longer, understand more, wonder more, give more. It will be a spring and summer of both plans and serendipity.
Today we went to story hour at the Pawlet, Vermont library (it was bunny day, and some of Jay's pink nose and white whiskers have not yet rubbed of during his nap). We drove to the Bedlam Corners country store for penny candies. We got a sandwich at the diner (I ate Jay's burger since he plowed through all the ham in my ham and cheese). Jay fell asleep.
The sun has come out, so maybe when he wakes up we'll go smash some puddles in the driveway. He'll get the grain for the horses while I carry the hay, and he'll put the water bucket on the hydrant and start filling it. When it's full, he'll tell me and shut off the water. He'll pretend to help me lift the 40-pound bucket off the hydrant.
"There you go, daddy."
After that, who knows? Check the peas in the garden- are they up yet? See how high the garlic has sprouted? Kick a ball, climb on toys, ride his glider bike- it doesn't matter. We'll fit in whatever is the most important thing to do at a given moment.
This chapter is already in transition. In September of 2011, I placed a baby seat in the back of our Honda Civic. I have to say, it freaked me out more than just a bit to see a BABY SEAT in the back of MY CAR.
Today, we took our first car ride in a booster seat.
Soon enough I will be the parent in the drop-off line at Mary J. Tanner School.
Soon enough his hands will be bigger than mine.
There are 35 days left in this chapter. I am looking forward to Jay and I spending the whole day together on every last one of them.