If you’ve caught an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee or seen Jerry Seinfeld doing stand up recently, you may have had the same reaction I did…
“When the eff did Jerry Seinfeld get so old?”
Sure, it’s been nearly 30 years since Seinfeld debuted, and thirty years changes a person’s face, no doubt. But it seems to me that Jerry’s face changed seemingly overnight. How could that be? How could time have passed that quickly? Presumably, time passes at the same rate for ol’ Jerome as it does for the rest of us, why should it be that his aged appearance seems so jarring? I’ve spent an embarrassing (and likely utterly procrastinative) amount of time wondering about this and I think I’ve figured it out. My husband and I fall asleep to Seinfeld every single night. And with its near dominance of the syndicated world, it’s likely you’ve seen an episode nearly every day of your life too. So in our quotidian lives, Jerry’s Peter Pan complex takes incarnate form: no matter how much time passes for us, Jerry remains 30(ish) years old. So when I saw him at 60(ish) years old, even though it really has been nearly thirty years, it seemed that all of a sudden, time had gone an made Jerry an old man. Funny the way time can trick our perception of the passage of our lives. Or how the passage of our lives can trick our perception of time, I haven’t decided which. (I do have other things to do, after all.)
Why am I sharing this ridiculous theory on a blog entitled “The Truth About Babies?” So glad you asked, bear with me a while longer and I’ll tell you right to your beautiful face.
“They grow up way too fast.” “Never, ever grow up!” “Where has my baby gone?” “Treasure every moment, because one day they’ll be grown and gone and you’ll wish you had.”
Heard one of these in your time in the Parenting trenches? Only a hundred thousand times, right? Until recently, these sentiments have driven me a little bit out of my fucking mind. Here’s why:
I have never once experienced the feeling that my macushla Boyo is growing up too fast. I have always felt that he is growing up at the exactly right pace. I feel, not woefully, but acutely alone in this tiny minority, because there is no shortage of the “Too fast! Too fast!” sentiment bubbling out of mouths, written on blogs, memed out the wazoo, and lamented on social media. But if you’re looking for someone to echo your thought of, “Boy, my kids sure are exactly as old as I want them to be,” or “it’s okay that he grows up, he’s supposed to after all,” or even “Holy shit, I’m glad he’s not [enter terrible age here] anymore,” you’d be better off looking for someone to admit that they give their kid apple juice on occasion. (OMG, y’all, when did juice become an enemy?? Insane.) I don’t look at my bright eyed two year old boy and wish that he were still a baby. I like the boy he is today. In fact, he keeps getting more and more interesting, and in addition to loving him more everyday, I find that I enjoy his presence more today that I ever have before. I don’t even wish that he would stay as he is today, as terrific as he is right now. If this better and better pattern holds, Jesus, just how awesome is this kid gonna get? I can’t wait to find out! I don’t wish that time would go quicker (okay, sometimes I wish that, but usually only when I’m counting down the yoctoseconds until Daddyo gets home from work) but when I get wistful for my boy, it’s not that I wish to go back in time, it’s that I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next, who he’ll evolve into next. Now, I fully acknowledge that having had a very, very difficult time when Boyo was an infant likely plays an Aida-sized role in my not wanting to go back to that time, but there’s also no denying how lonely it can feel to not understand how anyone would want a baby forever and ever amen.
It also makes me nuts when someone (with a loving heart, I’m sure, and a mind toward speaking from hallowed experienced ground yada yada yada) tells me to treasure every moment, because it all goes by so fast and I’ll wish that I had. The plain, hard truth here is that there are some moments that are simply not to be treasured. They’re to be giant-glass-of-wine-or-even-whiskey-drunk away (or yoga-ed or meditated or bubble bathed away if you’re a much, MUCH better person than I) and swept into the heap of “Tomorrow Will Be Better, Right…RIGHT??” I think it does a real disservice to try to convince Present Me that I should deny my true and honestly earned feelings because of what Future Me may or may not feel about it. I do believe that Future Me won’t give one flippin’ fig about having my nipple nearly torn off for the tenth time today but Present Me is ready to burn the house down over it. It’s really supremely unfair of Future Me (or worse, Present Somebody Else) to trivialize my actual present feelings in favor of potential future feelings. We’re all trying to live in the now, aren’t we? Be more present with ourselves and our children? Instead of treasuring every moment, wouldn’t it be better to treasure the ability to feel however we goddamn feel right here and now and be able to express it without any kind of tsk-tsk? I think it might. If nothing else, it certainly helps keep us in the moment. So choke on that, Future Me. (Also, can I really be the only one that is kinda looking forward to my child being grown and gone? Not that I want to skip to that time, but truly, isn’t that the whole point?)
Okay, so having been driven nuts by the things that seem to roll so easily off the hoards of tongues of friends and strangers alike, I have to acknowledge that perhaps instead of trying to get other people to stop expressing shit like this, I should try to reframe my reaction to it. Instead of feeling marooned on the Island of Misfit Mommies because I don’t want time to slow down, I will feel grateful that I do not feel at the mercy of time. It must be terribly heartbreaking to feel as though time is sweeping away the preciousness of a child’s life, so instead of feeling as though I am missing out on a (seemingly) universally acknowledged perspective (or worse, judging someone else’s perspective just because it doesn’t echo with mine,) I will be thankful down to my bones that I have do not have experience that particular heartache. I will consider myself extremely lucky to feel unburdened by the passage of time in this manner, and to take any energy spent thinking, “Why don’t I feel that way?” and redirect it as the more powerful, “I’m so glad I feel this way!”
As to the vociferous Treasurers of Every Moment, so sure that I will feel the way they feel when given enough time, I can only suggest that perhaps time only feels as though it has sped away because they are looking back across its entirety. Jerry Seinfeld seems to have aged all of a sudden because we only think of him as 30 year old Seinfeld or as 60 year old Comedians in Cars, with no real attention or profundity given to all of the years in between (because, I mean, Bee Movie? Really, Jerry? That’s it?) Perhaps the same is true of thinking of our children only as babies and then as grown and gone. There’s an awful lot of room for the stuff of life in the years it takes our children to grow up so when someone looks at me over my screaming, squalling little nightmare and demands that I “treasure every moment” I will try not to get mad. Instead, I will try to remain grateful that the stuff of life takes its meandering, languid time. Thirty years may seem like a flash looking back on it, but thirty years takes thirty entire years to live and thank god for that.
Maybe Present Me is just full of shit and Future Me will feel exactly the way the Treasurers think I’ll feel. All I can do as Present Me is live as honestly and openly as I can in the Here and Now, so my sincere hope for Future Me, if what the Treasurers predict does indeed come to pass, is that I find a way to focus my energy on coping with Future Me’s wistful feelings instead of wishing I could go back and make Present Me (or worse, Present Somebody Else) feel or do or behave or perceive differently. Because that seems like an absolutely scandalous waste of such precious time.