Not long after Vance was born, Kevin and I had a wonderful conversation with our friend Amanda about time as it relates to parenting. Amanda and her son, Matthew, had come over to meet the baby, and while Matthew and Maggie were busy entertaining themselves in the playroom the three of us adults had a chance to really catch up and talk — something parents of preschoolers know isn’t to be taken for granted!
We started talking about the concept of time. We’d all seen the movie Arrival (one of my favorite movies for sure), which Kevin and I watched just before Maggie was born. If you haven’t seen it, it’s absolutely worth a watch and digs into themes including communication and true understanding, motherhood, and also time. In Arrival, there’s a fluidity toward time that’s introduced, adding a thoughtful and poignant element to the film. Kevin and I told Amanda about the movie About Time (which just so happens to be my very favorite film and is a top pick for Kevin as well), which also deals with time in a different way, causing viewers to think about time from a new perspective. (I firmly believe About Time is a movie worth watching every year or so to really help ground your thinking as it relates to what’s truly important in life. Right now, you can find it on Netflix!)
During our conversation, Amanda mentioned that she often wished she could move through time when it came to parenting as a way to help her be more present and thankful in any given moment. I LOVED hearing her talk about this, and have thought about it so much in the weeks since. After all, how powerful would it be to be able to hop between parenting phases as a way to truly appreciate each one just a bit more? For example, she shared, what if she could spend a few hours with Matthew as a teenager, and then pop back to time with him as a preschooler? It would make her appreciate BOTH of those points in his life as a child and her life as his parent even more, because it would help her gain perspective. Those frustrating moments of dealing with a 4-year-old suddenly become easier when you can truly grasp the fact that things won’t be this way forever. They won’t even be this way for very long, all things considered.
Of course, this kind of time travel isn’t possible (bummer!), but I’ve found it to be such a helpful mental exercise. In retrospect, too, the conversation happened at a wonderful time — right when we were adding a second child to the mix and dealing with the oh-so sweet and also often challenging and exhaustion-inducing newborn weeks. I’ve realized that I’ve started making mental trips into the future with Vance, and into both the future and past with Maggie, and those little imaginary journeys have proven to be beautifully grounding when it comes to being present and thankful in the here and now. Vance won’t always be a tiny baby, and when I imagine him as a 4-year-old, as a college student, as a father himself, and then “come back” to the present — even if the present involves him screaming in the car while I’m trying to pick Maggie up from school — I’m much more centered and grateful and aware of how this is a very specific moment in time that I’ll never have again.
I’ve realized I’ve been doing a better job of taking mental snapshots of these seemingly tiny, everyday moments, too. Kevin and I talk often about how we’re in a golden period of our lives right now. Our kids are little and sweet and enjoy being with us. All four of our parents are healthy and happy. Our lives are busy and yet small at the same time (which is just right for this phase).
It won’t always be like this.
And so, sometimes I find myself zooming out to assume a fly on the wall perspective, and I breathe it all in and try to remember how a specific moment feels. I watch my father-in-law remind Maggie not to forget the treasured leaf she’d picked up on the way to the restaurant as we go to leave. I frame in my mind an image of my mother cradling tiny baby Vance in our living room, singing him a song she sang to me as a baby. I smile as I capture forever the memory of my dad exuberantly jumping in a bounce house with Maggie and my nephew. I see my mother-in-law patiently working on an art project with Maggie at our kitchen counter. I grab the mental image of Kevin carefully pulling Vance out of his carseat, and I notice how small Vance looks right here in this moment and how lovingly Kevin looks at him.
This mental photo album is perhaps my most precious possession. I don’t have time travel, but I have this. It’s all so fleeting. Yes, the days can feel long, but overall it’s almost unfair how quickly time moves. All I can do is try to grab onto those tiny pieces of it — to hold them in my heart — and do my best to recognize the beauty of this life, both as it’s already happened and as it continues to unfold.