Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hello Lamp-post, Whatcha Knowin?

When I worked at the Boys & Girls Club in Columbus years ago, there was a six-year-old girl, Z, who was the Queen of non sequiturs.  I tied her shoes for her once, and remarked on how small her feet were.  "My feet are gonna get bigger," she replied, "and then I'll go to OSU."  True, yes, but generally most people do not connect the growing of their feet with the attainment of higher education.  This was one of the things I loved about working with small children--the delightfully illogical ways they look at the world.

Z also helped me to remember the relativity of time, or at least the relativity of how we look at time.  There was something Z wanted to do one day that was slated for the next day's agenda, and she was in tears over not being able to do it.  Thinking it would help, I told her she could do the fun activity tomorrow.  To my surprise, Z started wailing even harder.  "But that's so far away!" she sobbed.  As an adult, I had forgotten the impossible length of an hour when it was still possible to measure your age with your fingers.

I have been wondering if LO, in addition to viewing the mundane daily chores I do as mighty and elaborately interesting quests, also sees each day as an ocean of time that it would be impossible to get to the end of in the space of 24 hours.  Days for me have been slipping by in about 14 hours total lately, and I suspect they're only going to speed up even more.  I don't remember exactly when summer transitioned to fall this year, let alone how it got to be winter already.  LO, on the other hand, can spend several minutes at a time transfixed by the perfection of his own hand.  Babyhood may be the only time in life when humans can truly live within the moment.

I have said recently that motherhood, unlike my husband, teaching, graduate school and peer pressure, has been the only thing in the world to get me to start drinking coffee.  I believe motherhood is also the only thing in the world that has gotten me to change my process.  (For everything!)  It used to be that I needed great swathes of time uncluttered by any other responsibility in order to get anything done, whether the anything was writing, lesson planning, sewing, reading, or even relaxing.  If anything had any other claim on me during that time, the time was too cluttered for me to be productive.  I could try to do things in 15 minute increments, but generally just as I got into the flow of things, I had to change gears.  That never worked that well for me.

Well, now that I have my very own master of mindfulness, great swathes of time tend to be in short supply.  I have found that I am able to start something, leave it for several minutes (or hours) when LO indicates that my presence is required elsewhere, and finish it later when both of my hands are once again free.  Who knew that I could multi-task?

Unfortunately, this new process means that time flits by on silvery-winged feet.  I've always been one to anticipate and live in the future anyway, so the grand hurry-up that seems to happen every day is somewhat less than welcome.  I'd love to be able to wail about how far away tomorrow is.

Luckily, there are some moments every day that slow time down.  If I'm up, the hour between 6:00 and 7:00 am lasts longer than any other during the day.  (That's the reason why those insufferable early-rising types are always nattering on about how those who sleep in are missing the best part of the day).  When I actually manage to get up that early, the entire day goes more smoothly because of the huge amount I can get done before the rest of the world is awake.  Then there are the moments with LO, the zen master.  If I am trying to ask LO to conform to anyone else's schedule, that makes time speed up, of course, and makes simple tasks take three times as long as they should.  But if you let the little man do his own thing in his own time, it's magical.  A ten minute bath is an epic sea journey.  Learning to grasp letter links is an afternoon of learning.  Reading a book on Mama's lap is an experience in masterful story-telling, at least until the book goes in his mouth.

None of us can control how quickly or slowly time passes, despite how badly we may want to when waiting in line at the DMV.  I just hope I can remember that an hour is a different beast to each of us, depending on our perspective (and the relative size of our feet).

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