The Passage of Time

Brookline Tab, November 2000

James Taylor, a native of these parts, once said, “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” But I’m not sure he was a parent back then, or if he was, that he did not have school age children.

I’m finding it a challenge to enjoy the passage of time. For one thing, my children are too busy, and that means I’m too busy. I can’t exactly enjoy them and these golden days if they’re never around. For another thing, things are always changing, and just when I get a handle on my life, everything shifts again (especially my children).

Just this past weekend, I got into a really black mood because I realized that I wanted to take all my boys and go somewhere as a family, but that, damn it, all three of them had committments for the better part of the weekend. I sat and fumed, staring out the window at the yellow leaves, the warm sunlight, and my kids all somewhere else, pursuing their different activities, their soccer, gymnastics, and playdates. I had the house to myself, yet I did not feel like breaking out the international coffees.

At the day’s end I realized that what was really bothering me was the feeling that it was all slipping away from me; that they were growing up and away from me. My oldest, never an easy person to get to know, would be turning eleven soon. I wanted to stop the clock and get to know him before he was all grown up. I felt a profound sense of panic that I had missed out on something.

With a heavy heart I went upstairs for the night. But when I looked in on him in his sleep, his long bony limbs sticking out of covers, I could see that his face was still soft and, in that dark room, almost babylike in sleep. I sighed, inexplicably relieved. I checked on my middle son, my eight year old, next. He was buried under blankets, breathing heavilly, given up entirely to his sleep, a pile of books next to his bed on the floor. Again, my heart was gripped by the feeling that something important was getting away from me, as I looked down at this smart, sturdy, serious boy, with no trace of the smiley baby who had clung to me like a little monkey. I wanted that baby back, and yet even more, I wanted to really know this amazing child before me. Did I even know what books he likes to read anymore? Or if he’s noticed girls yet? How could I have let these questions go unanswered? Why are we always so busy?

I realized then that it was not too late; it was just that it had all become more complicated. Children grow up and become complex beings with thoughts we’ll never know about. But we don’t have to let them become strangers. Perhaps what I could do was to simply unschedule them a bit, make them take some days off from their schedules — even if they fought me. Because what I understood then was that my need to connect with my children is every bit as important as their need for enrichment activities; perhaps more so.

Quickly I raced down the hall to my toddler, asleep in green fuzzy feet pajamas, baby perfume filling the air above his crib. I drank it in like wine. No, it was not too late after all. Not too late for any of us. We just have to stop and notice each other, embrace our loved ones. We need our activities, but we also need to rest, sometimes, to blow off a few committments and get back to basics. Doing nothing together might really be something. The clock is ticking, yet the day is still young. Or as Carly Simon, another area denizen put it, “These are the good old days.”