“Mommy, are we late?”
This is a pretty typical question my daughters ask me as they pile into the minivan and get situated in their carseats. And, unfortunately, too often the answer is “Yes.” It’s not intentional – most days we are running on time until life suddenly happens – a baby diaper blow out, an indecipherable toddler tantrum, a “big girl” meltdown over a seemingly harmless issue – and we go from mostly on time to most certainly late.
Teaching punctuality is one of those things that I think is a valuable life lesson for my kids. It teaches respect, responsibility and, most simply, time management. However, that also contradicts one of the great parenting liberties we have. Up to now, the concept of time has been entirely in our favor as parents. “Five minutes” is the most vague and open ended concept in our methods. At times, five minutes really does mean five minutes. 300 seconds. A small period of time in which to complete a task. However, more often five minutes is used as a theoretical – it can mean thirty seconds or it can mean fifteen real minutes. Since our kids have no concept of time, we can use the “five minute warning” as it benefits us.
However, that is soon changing. Our oldest is starting to understand time and the gig might be up. And, I’m realizing this might not be the worst thing. While I will miss being able to give a blanket time warning, having my kids understand the difference between 5 minutes and 35 minutes may help us contextualize our family’s schedule and what can be done in an allotted period of time.
The more that I think about time, though, the more I realize that it’s not just about the five minute warnings and understanding of the big hand and little hand on a clock (I mean reading the numbers on the iPhone lock screen…). Time alludes us. I swear it was just yesterday that I took the pregnancy test that changed our lives forever – that turned us from newlyweds to soon to be parents. And not much longer after that our first daughter, then our second, then our third, was born. How did that happen so quickly? Where did the time go?
My kids can’t understand the true passing of time yet, and I am so thankful for that. Our oldest daughter told me yesterday “when I grow up, I’m going to be a mommy and live in your house so we can always be together.” While a cute idea she will likely not follow through on, this statement gave me pause as I imagined what that will look like. If five years have gone by this quickly, what will the next twenty five look like. Will they also be a blur of memories and moments frozen in time? Will I look back at today and think “just yesterday my kids were babies?”
Time is of the essence. Time flies when you’re having fun. Time is on your side. Time heals all. So much of what we do and say is wrapped up in the theoretical and practical application of time. And, yet, most days all I want to do is speed time up so that the meltdowns and chaotic schedules turn to quiet slumber, and simultaneously slow time down to live in the moment and not let my kids grow up too fast. The paradox of time is overwhelming.
So, for now, I think I’ll pour myself another cup of coffee while the baby naps and the older girls play cooperatively together. I think I have, oh, maybe five minutes…