Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On Tots and Time

Watching my five month old daughter resist a nap has given new meaning to the phrase "falling asleep". She really looks like she's falling. Her eyelids droop, her taut limbs slowly descend toward the mattress. And just when she's about to land in a pleasant slumber, she gasps, clenches every muscle and pulls herself back into determined, cranky consciousness.

I don't totally get why she fights it, but I remember hating naps when I was a kid. I can still see the wood grain patterns on the underside of the top bunk bed on a sunny afternoon in 1981. I was bored out of my mind. If I were TIRED, I'd be sleeping right now! As I laid in my prison cell, I imagined all the fun stuff my mom must have been doing at that moment.  I can't wait till I'm a grown up and no one can tell me what to do.  Years later, I would have a similar fantasy as I stared through the chain link fence that surrounded my elementary school playground. That guy mowing his lawn at the house across the street has no idea how good he has it. He is free.

I have to admit, being a grown up is better, though I now understand that adulthood comes with its own traps and tedium. I still hate naps and take far fewer than the number prescribed to new moms. I don't always sleep when the baby sleeps, because when else am I going to write? Will Bernadette envy my writing time when she's old enough to understand what I'm doing when I make her go to bed in the middle of the day?

So, I don't look at Bernadette or my young self and say, "You silly thing, someday you'll prize this activity you once hated!" That was never true for me. I guess the one thing I wish a child could understand and appreciate while they're still young is the preciousness of time. I was always wanting to speed things up. I can't wait for this nap time to be over. I can't wait until I'm old. It's only December 14th and I'm dying for it to be Christmas Day! As an adult, I love and savor the holiday season from Thanksgiving onward. But I'd gladly do without the gift exchange, and Christmas Day tends to be anticlimactic. As a child, the seemingly eternal build-up frustrated me. Now it moves so fast. I guess the days seem so much longer when you don't have that many behind you.

I'm turning 35 in a few weeks - not so very old, but not so very young, either. In a weird and unanticipated way, I feel lucky to have a baby at this pivotal moment. Raising an infant  warps time. The days stretch and fly like a fickle rubber band. It's exhausting and enlivening all at once. I'm often immersed in vivid nostalgia but also feel excited for the future. Somehow, I'm able to ponder all that while being present for this very needy person. It's hard work, but I'd rather be this busy than be obsessing over my age. I'd rather be mowing the lawn than staring through the chain link fence.


  1. Wendell:

    I think about this on occasion. Maybe it's because I haven't accrued so many of the material trappings of "maturity" (car, home ownership, etc.), but I still have little trouble in achieving the kind of wonder at certain features of the world that our younger comrades like Ms. Bernadette likely feel. As a result, like you, I don't tend to feel a great deal of nostalgia for those days (though I *do* find I become more fascinated at their adult aspects; i.e. what would my life had been like if I'd been 37-year-old me back then?). It *is* a very weird time right now; I'm starting to become more focused along the lines of Dr. Johnson's maxim: "The prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates one's mind wonderfully" (or words to that effect). Everything becomes dearer and more precious, and I think it's an effect somewhat akin to the grandeur with which the young see the world.

  2. I just now saw this comment. That's a lovely notion. Today was overcast and cool, which made great walking weather. I packed B into her front pack carrier and we hiked a mile down the road to a cafe. I found myself noticing certain details along our walk that I felt compelled to point out to B. Of course she's too young to know what I'm talking about, but I'm just really excited to share these things with her. We literally stopped at a picturesque garden to smell the roses. I'm glad to have these opportunities to slow time and I feel lucky for being a reflective sort of person.