I had to visit my own blog to remember the last time I actually posted on it. Suffice to say, it’s been a while.
Perhaps that’s fitting, as the point of today’s post is the excruciatingly swift passage of time. Up until college, my life didn’t seem to be moving all that fast. I could remember most of the people, places, decisions and chains of events that had gotten me to where I was. But once I finished grad school, I entered the working world and things started to blur. Time was speeding up, even if the daily grind was grinding enough to blind me to that reality. Then I got married and could hardly remember what life was like before I met my wife. Now I’ve been married for almost five years and I can hardly remember what life was like before we had our two kids.
Tonight I sat on the couch with my newly minted three-year-old daughter Maddie tucked perfectly into that comfortable spot inside the crook of my arm that was made for her. We were uncharacteristically starting to watch a movie dangerously close to bedtime–Mary Poppins, a personal favorite of mine that I am happy to see she has also embraced.1–as a reward for successfully pooping in the potty. This is only the second instance of such a feat in recorded history, so we were going all out in our celebration.2
As I sat there enjoying her questions3 and commentary4, I realized that we were mimicking a pose in a photo of which Facebook had recently reminded me–which in turn reminded me of a moment that I had since forgotten, when Maddie was a mere 19 days old and I was staying up with her watching old movies in the dead of night on a trip to my in-laws’ house.
Three years and one day later, that tiny, helpless baby is now this little girl sitting by my side, sharing a favorite movie and engaging in delightful conversation. This has got to be the biggest three-year leap of her life, right?
I can’t imagine a more dramatic timelapse.
There she was with her dark newborn hair–yet to be lost to the ravages of moving her head from side-to-side on the ground. Here she is now, with her dark blonde hair–long enough to sit in two braids hanging down from her head.
There she was with those tiny hands–tiny everything!–unable to even put herself to sleep and unable to tell us what was wrong. Here she is now–more than willing to share her opinions and overflowing with questions and ideas.
When she was a baby, I looked forward to coming home from work so that I could simply see her. Now I come home to interact. I hear about her day and she asks about mine. We read stories, we play games and we make things out of Play-Doh. We sing songs, we watch movies, we have dance parties and conversations.
All the things that seemed a million years away as I endlessly rocked a sleepless infant in a rocking chair were actually just three years away–and now they’re here. And when I look at it that way, every future stage is really just a few years away–and if these three felt like a blur, the next three will feel like a flash, and the next 30 will feel like an instant.
I often lament my inability to blog more. The great irony is that I’m often too busy being a dad in my free time to write about my experience of being a dad in my free time.
Three years into fatherhood, if I had one wish for myself and advice for others, it would be to find a more lasting blend of patience, gratitude and awareness.
I want to be patient with my children and savor their limitations. Today’s limitations are tomorrow’s skills–whether that’s a frustrating inability to sleep or a really cute speech impediment when trying to pronounce the letter L. Either way, it’s something that the march of time will most likely take care of, and it’s one of the memorable trappings of the current moment of which you should be aware and for which you should be grateful.
Yes, I realize that it is all too easy to be aware of the difficult limitations and not so easy to be grateful for them. But I want the hard memories, too.
Although there have been many moments of profound joy, laughter and fun, the first three years of parenthood have also been a tremendous struggle as we die to ourselves and our own desires in the service of our kids. Our children require everything from us when they are newly born and helpless, but when they outgrow that, they seem to require even more from us in new ways as they get older. The questions grow beyond mere survival to issues of personality, behavior and morality.5 As I continue to sacrifice for my children, I want to remember these soft moments with Maddie on the couch as well as the hard moments spent standing with her in the corner. They are both infused with love in their own way.
And I think that’s what I’m most afraid of losing: Someday I want to look at my newly minted 33-year-old daughter–perhaps once again next to me on a couch, introducing Mary Poppins to a son or daughter of her own–and keenly recall the memory of the love I felt for that sleepless infant and that inquisitive toddler and every blessed step of the next 30 years. It’s already going so much faster than I want it to.