When our babies were small enough that they rode in the front part of the basket, nice ladies with silver hair and watery eyes would stop us and urge: “Cherish every moment. It goes so fast.”
And we would assure them oh, for sure! We are cherishing every moment so hard! Even though those women know damned well it doesn’t work that way. Even if someone had handed us a real live actual no-shit time downslower, we still couldn’t have stopped the moments from sliding by because we were so sleep-starved and stressed about money and laundry and babies who wouldn’t JUST OMG EAT and everything else that there’s no way either of us would’ve had the mental clarity to operate the Time Slowdown Machine. Especially if it was a fancy one with more than one or two settings where wait, read the quickstart guide, I think the rate of time passing is controlled by the other remote. The black one. It can work with either but you have to set it up. So this one turns the thing on and calibrates — NO, SWEETIE you have to aim it right into the cone of perception or else it won’t read the signal. It’s infrared and… just let me see it. What the heck did you do? Now the box is turned off and we have to
Okay you know what? We will just let time pass at the normal rate for now. Then later when the kids are grown and we have years where we constantly feel a deep heart-stabbing regret over not slowing down time when we had the chance, well THEN we will get one of the kids to come over and use the machine to speed time up for us. Assuming I haven’t misplaced the remote, in which case we will just go to grocery stores and accost new parents like creepy sad old soothsayers.
I really have cherished the holy heck out of my kids’ childhoods. Maybe not every single moment, but definitely a lot of them. I savored mundane things like bedtime stories and morning snuggles and the way toddlers point and flex their feet when they are concentrating. I blogged, I took candid photos in natural light, I listened to them intently.
And just like those old ladies knew it wouldn’t, all of that did nothing to slow down time.
Despite all of my frantic cherishing, our youngest is now eight. No more talking to a tiny person; we are in the middle stretch of parenting. I don’t feel as frantic to cherish moments and milestones but for the kids, this is Childhood. These years are where their lifelong memories (and/or false memories, if we decide to troll them with photoshop) are made. This is where our failures and parental shortcomings will be fished from when they’re old enough to talk to a therapist about their issues, and this is where they’ll get all of the things they try to repeat or avoid with their own kids. This is where kids start putting in their own hard work towards forming their identity, their social connections, their future selves.
At the same time, life becomes hugely easier for parents at this point. Which sort of sucks for me because having little kids is a great social equalizer. People who just met me in the last decade don’t know how scattered I was before I was a parent. We are back to where we were before we had kids: lame messy people who don’t know anything about being grownups that wasn’t clearly spelled out in an IKEA catalog or episode of Friends.
When your kids are 5 and 7, people 100% understand if you show up late and your given reason is Shoe Drama. It’s not worrisome if you’re visibly exhausted and have a sticker in your hair. You have little kids! Of course your socks don’t match and you just ate peanut butter for dinner — lady, you’re doing great to survive each day!
But that level of sympathy is over once your youngest turns eight. Not only are you free of little kids slowing you down, heck now you have extra field hands. 8 and 11 can do real chores. 8 and 11 get their own band-aids. In fact if you say “Ow!” they’ll run to get YOU band-aids. 8 and 11 can shower and dry their own hair. They might do a terrible job but so what? They can unload dishes!
The little bits of freedom keep surprising me. Wait, did you just let the dog out without me telling you to? Did you refill the paper tray in my printer just because hey, paper? Are you genuinely helping with dinner in a way that helps instead of slowing me down a bunch? These things are GOOD things.
So here I am, at the start of my 40s. It seems like the next ten years will be less frantic, but still intense in a new way. I see these kids becoming people. People! People with friends and interests and quirks and habits and social lives. What they need from us now is listening and talking, guidance, reminders, help understanding all the social weird stuff about being human. And rides to friends’ houses. And popcorn with lots of butter. And help setting up Skype.
No grocery store ladies have warned me to cherish every moment of pre-adolescence, but I’m finding that as much as I adore and miss conversations with four year olds, I wouldn’t mind slowing time down right now. Just a little. You know?