|Photo by Jessica Lucia|
Earlier this year Hubby and I celebrated a milestone in our parenting journey: the half-way point.
When Hubby was on a submarine in the Navy the whole boat celebrated whenever they completed the first half of a deployment. Wives and families and girlfriends sent half-way boxes full of gifts for their men (back when only men served in the submarine force), that the sailors unwrapped on half-way night.
It occurred to me to mark time with the same degree of intentionality when our son turned six and I realized we’d now had him one-third of the time we’d get him. So we took a page out of the sub force book. We calculated the time span between our first child’s birth and our last child’s expected departure (23 years), divided by two (11.5 years), and marked the calendar.
We’re over half-way done now. That’s shocking.
I talked with another dad at church recently, bewailing the fact that we’re now dealing with the onset of puberty in two of our three children, as well. “I had no curves, no shape, nothing that represented femininity until I was thirteen or fourteen,” I told him. But at ten and twelve, my older two kids are already exhibiting signs of the adults they’re becoming. “I thought we’d have more time before having to deal with this kind of stuff,” I told him.
“That could be the theme song of our entire parenting experience,” he replied. “‘I thought we’d have more time’.” They’ve already had two children launch in directions and on timelines they didn’t expect.
A friend told me about a sermon her pastor gave, where he came to the podium with a jar full of marbles. “There are 1,000 marbles in this jar,” he explained, then took one out and dropped it on the floor. “From the time your child is born till the time he or she moves out, you have about 1,000 weekends together.” He took out another marble and dropped it on the floor. “How did you use your marble this weekend? Last weekend? The one before?” He took one marble after another out of the jar and dropped them each on the floor. “Your chances are going away, one weekend at a time. And when they’re gone, you don’t get them back.”
When my kids were babies and toddlers someone told me, “These are the longest days and the shortest years of your life.” And they were. Once the littles hit school it’s like someone greases them up and pitches them downhill on a slip-n-slide. I did the math on elementary school, too: I’ll be there with my kids for a total of thirteen years. I now have three left.
I thought I’d have more time, you know? More time to go on pumpkin patch field trips and collect my children’s hand-picked flowers to press in my Bible and organize playground picnics before I had to contend with pimples and crushes and long-range academic planning.
I thought I’d have more chances to go to the zoo and run through the sprinkler and finger-paint before I’d have to explain about hormones and menstruation and body hair.
I thought I’d get more days where I struggled to come up with stuff to keep the kids engaged and entertained and active before I had so many days where I struggled to squeeze in all the soccer practices and music lessons and youth events, as if our weeks have turned into a big, life-sized Tetris puzzle.
My high school English teacher explained to me why time seems to go faster as you age. It’s because you perceive time in a relative way. When you’re two years old, a year is half of your life. When you’re ten years old, it’s only a tenth of your life. At fifty, it’s one-fiftieth of your life.
Time is blazing by now, and there’s not a thing I can do to stop it or slow it down.
And you want to hear some irony? While writing about the ache of watching my children slipping into adulthood right before my eyes, I left the living room with my laptop and retreated to the solitude of my bedroom because my daughter’s constant chatter with and about the cat was making me crazy.
This parenting stuff is an endless cocktail of physical, psychological, and spiritual conundrums tangled up with hope and fear and guilt and selfishness and sacrifice, garnished with a twist of holy angst. (Shaken, not stirred.)
This isn’t what I thought it would be. I’m not who I thought I’d be.
I thought I’d have more wisdom, insight, sense. I thought I’d have more patience, beneficence, grace. I thought I’d have more opportunities for serendipity, object lessons, relational connections.
I really thought I’d have more time.