Monday, December 30, 2013

Wishing Time Away

Perhaps this isn't groundbreaking to anyone else, but one night a couple weeks ago I was randomly thinking while I was getting ready for bed, and it occurred to me why we, as parents, tend to wish away time.  After all, don't we, as parents, always talk about how you need to savor the time because the kids will never be this young again?  We need to take full advantage of every moment, because things can change in the blink of an eye (good or bad) and it's good to just appreciate the present for what it is. 

So why do we wish away time so often?  I decided that it's because we want validation that we survived whatever parenting trial we're currently going through and came out of it OK.  Whether it's a couple days with a stomach bug, or a couple months with a broken bone, or couple years with food intolerances, I think we all want to fast-forward a bit just so we can get to the point where we look back and realize we made it through.  I dream of a time where Jacob can mature through some of his issues now, and we'll look back with wonder at what a mess things were.  I think about the joy of Carter finally being able to eat anything we put in front of him without a fear of what he might react to, and how we'll look back at the confusion and concern I'm dealing with now and be thankful it's over.  We just want to get to a point where things are OK again, and nothing else can get in to derail our plans further. 

Again, maybe this thinking isn't news to anyone, but I guess I'd never thought about it quite this way before.  I've long said that parenthood is just a series of phases.  The good and the bad will all change, one way or another, and a new set of good and bad things will replace them.  It's just how parenthood is.  While we all try to savor the good stuff (I had an easier time of that with Carter than with Jacob, I think), I think we tend to fixate more on the hard stuff and want to fast-forward through to a time where we have it all figured out.  It never happens, since we really just skip from one problem to another, but it's always nice to look back and realize how far we've come...even if the mountain ahead of us is no less daunting. 

I think what's extra hard about parenthood is that we lose our safety net.  As a kid you always have your parents to give you the safety and security you need.  When you're the parent, there isn't really anything that can give you that feeling, aside from your co-parent...who may be equally panicked.  One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons ever shows Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty sitting under a tree, and Charlie Brown talks about the feeling of security when you can sleep in the back seat of your parents' car.  But he explains that you grow up and it can never be that way again, to which Peppermint Patty says, "Hold my hand, Chuck!"  The thing is, your parents can convince you that everything's going to be OK, and most likely they're going to do the best they can to make it happen.  When you're the parent, it becomes your job, and the reality hits you that there's only so much you can do, and there are no guarantees.  It's hard.

So, we power through and hope we make the right decision.  And in my case, we wish for a time machine to speed forward and make sure everything's fine in the end.  I always think back to my teen and college years and wonder how much fun I missed out on because I was worried I'd never find the right guy.  I spent so much time obsessing over that that I probably overlooked some great opportunities to just enjoy the moment despite my singleness.  If I would have known that I'd be married by the time I turned 25, perhaps I would have just chilled out and enjoyed the ride a little more.  I think it's probably the same with kids--that if I could look down the road 20 years and know we raised two little boys into wonderful adults, I'd probably worry a little less about the little things now and enjoy my time with them so much more.  But, of course, there isn't that option and I don't know for sure that we'll have that kind of happy ending.  So in the meantime I will worry.  It's part of the gig, no matter how much we try to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand. 

It's fine, really, but this is definitely one of the harder parts of parenthood.  But if anyone happens to find a parental remote with a fast-forward and rewind button, please let me know.  Thanks!

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