Time: it’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?
I honestly don’t know how this happened, but Rachel is done with college for another year. Exams are done, final projects handed in, lockers cleaned out, dorm rooms emptied (a whole other story, which my aching back will be happy to tell you about for some time to come), and…that’s a wrap, kiddies!
College: Year 2 is done and dusted.
In September 2012, when we first dipped our toes into this whole “mostly empty nest” thing, it seemed like the school year would last forever.
I remember bidding a slightly tearful farewell to Rachel at Thanksgiving in October, and thinking that it would be ages before we saw one another again at Christmas.
This past September, I was a lot more sanguine about it, and sure enough, this year has zipped past as if it were on fast-forward.
If this keeps up, she’ll be completing fourth year in about five minutes, and her master’s degree in five seconds flat. I’m pretty sure she won’t be doing a Ph.D., which is a good thing since at this rate, she’ll have finished it before she even started.
The journey out is always longer
Actually, I have a theory about this whole time-compression thing.
You remember when we were kids and our parents would take us on those seemingly interminable car rides around the Nova Scotia countryside to visit the pilots who worked for Dad? It was a bit like when the Queen goes walkabout, except it involved driving to places like Herring Cove, Lunenburg, Digby, Shelburne, Port Hawkesbury, Bridgewater, and North Sydney.
We’d set out on a Saturday morning, and from my queasy, carsick point of view in the back seat, we’d drive aimlessly along interminable highways and country roads for hours and hours and hours. Eventually we’d locate that week’s victim’s house, where we’d disembark and be told to sit quietly and not make nuisances of ourselves, while Mum and Dad partook of the hospitality of the house.
Eventually we’d leave, and the drive home always seemed to take about half the time of the trip out—because now I knew where we were going, I recognized landmarks I’d noted on the way out, and each minute took us closer to home (and merciful relief from carsickness).
My point, and I do have one, is that when you know where you’re going, and you’ve made the journey already, each successive trip seems shorter by comparison.
The parenting time warp
As I think about it, this applies to parenting as well.
For instance: back when Adrian was a baby, it seemed to me that my life would never be anything other than an endless round of diapers, drool, and breastfeeding. From the perspective of a brand new parent, babyhood seems like it’ll never end…until finally, you graduate into toddlerhood, preschool-hood…and then the school years. (I was going to say “school-hood,” but that starts to sound like it has criminal overtones, so let’s leave it at that, shall we?)
By the time you and your child are in the school years, things take on a kind of sameness from year to year, and suddenly you know pretty much where you’re going from one September to the next. You understand the rhythm, you have a general idea what to expect.
And that’s when the whole time-speeding-up thing starts. By the time our kids are in high school, we’re acutely aware that our time with them at home will be limited (and we’re right).
Incidentally, go ahead and tell all this to a mother who’s just had her first baby. Go on, I dare you. You’ll come away with a bloody nose, guaranteed.
I can’t even tell you how many times some well-intentioned soul told me, “Savour this time! It goes by so fast!” while I was trying to cope with the whole shit and stringbeans deal. I remember smiling sweetly, nodding, and thinking to myself that I would like to stab that person in the hand with a fork.
And yet, by the time I had Rachel, I knew very well how fleeting her infancy and toddlerhood would be; I knew what to look for, how long the ride would take…and most of all, I knew that each phase would be a lot shorter than I expected.
I also knew that the trip likely wouldn’t involve me being carsick, which was a total bonus.
So as we embark on another summer with Rachel at home, I need to remember that the time between now and September will be infinitesimally short…and that we should enjoy it while it lasts.