My son is turning four this month. I am freaking out a little. Where did the time go?
Why can’t I remember all the long days of my little man as a newborn? God knows I took enough photos! They now seem to have flown by. On the flip side, why does time feel like it stands still when he acts his age and has a tantrum? Or goes in slo-mo when I can see my kids’ roughhousing climaxing into an injury? Why can’t we fast forward through that?!
Let me interrupt and qualify my inquiry [read: rant] by stating that I am married to an engineer and I saw the movie Interstellar, so clearly I am an expert on the concept of time. And I think it’s stupid. It is relative, yet confining. And it causes me angst.
Time is a measure of something that I don’t often want measured. It very easily correlates with guilt. During the TIME I am at my full-time job or working as a vendor at a weekend art show for my side business, I feel guilty about not being with my kids. For the TIME I am with my kids, I look around my house and see unfinished projects and dirty…everything. I very easily retreat into a “scarcity mindset” and fall to the comfort of the cliche “there’s just not enough hours in the day!” Stupid day, get some more hours so I can feel productive and NOT guilty about how I choose to spend my time. Honestly.
Then there are days when I finally sit down at night, think back, and wonder how I spent my time. On a typical work day, I see/spend time with my kids for 2-2.5 hours. I see coworkers for 8.5. That is frustratingly ill-proportioned. Then I feel guilty that I am wasting my time sitting down and I get up to do something “productive.”
Then something happens that forces me to assess my perspective on time. A life event, say, or more poignantly, a death. It brings to light that I don’t know what TIME I really have. And provides the not-so-fun opportunity to ask myself how I am spending this unknown amount of TIME. And how I may be taking what I have for granted. Hence, time is the worst.
So now as I notice my son’s chubby baby cheeks thinning out, his vocabulary increasing, and his inquiries maturing, I wonder how quickly our lives are going to fly by. My son somehow picks up on this. One night as I was tucking him in and commenting how late it was, he asked, “Mama, why doesn’t time stop?”
At first I was caught off guard by the profundity of his question. Then I realized he was stalling before bed (again, stupid time!) I recovered with an answer about the earth rotating around the sun and the moon rotating around the earth and how that dictates our days and nights. “Oh,” he said, “OK. That makes sense. Thanks, Mama. Good night.”
As I closed the door to his room, I again reflected on how quickly my baby became a clever time-stealing little boy. Despite the intention of the question, it is still deep. It is one for the ages. It leaves me feeling vulnerable. But I’ll think about it later…I have to go do the dishes.