18 years ago, I attended my oldest child’s high school graduation with my youngest child on my lap. Sarah was just shy of 18 at the time and Cheyenne was eight-weeks old.
I remember the moment with absolute clarity. It was, in so many ways, both surreal and life affirming.
I fully appreciated in that moment how quickly time flies. Sarah, born in 1981, seemed in retrospect to have moved warp speed through her 18 years. Of course I knew intellectually, that living in those 18 years of days seemed much longer. But I, like other first time parents, tended to focus on Sarah’s milestones as a child. Parents understand this framework well. It is always what children are doing next – rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, first words, lost teeth, birthdays, kindergarten, riding bikes, going through school, making friends, high school dances, first crush, learning to drive, etc., and rarely about begging to stay in the moment. But later, as they grow from infants, to toddlers, to young children, and then to teenagers, you start to have slivers of recognition that all the days really do go quite quickly. Alas, you cannot linger in those slivers because you are too busy with all the goings-on of day-to-day life. At high school graduation there is a bit of melancholy at the notion that your chubby-cheeked baby has become an adult. You wonder when exactly it happened, but you know, it was coming all along in the compilation of all those milestones.
As I sat at that graduation, it was surreal to realize that I would be doing all of this again in 18 years. I wondered if the next 18 years would again pass (in retrospect) in the blink of an eye. I thought that I was in a fairly unique position to be parenting children just shy of 18 years apart. Not everyone has their fourth child eleven years after their third child and three months shy of age 40. I felt fairly peculiar on that front – I clearly was different than many of the other parents of graduates in the room. Young enough as a parent of a high school graduate, but quite a bit older as a parent of a newborn.
And yet, it was life affirming. I sat in my chair with a full appreciation that I was going to get to do all of this again – teenage years included (said tongue-in-cheek). It was an exhilarating notion knowing what I knew then, that time would attempt to flit past me in the days and years until I once again arrived at this destination. I felt glorious in my superior understanding because I thought I could slow things down, hold on tighter, linger in the moments in ways that I had not done before. I thought that understanding the phenomenon of time flying would allow me to manipulate the days and years enough to meander my way to my youngest child’s high school graduation. I felt like I was a master of the universe with my newfound understanding.
Fast forward 18 years and here I am again. Today, I will attend Cheyenne’s high school graduation. I will sit there with the parents and families of a few hundred other graduates and I will celebrate the milestone. I will be older than most of the parents of graduates, but younger than some of the grandparents. But despite my enduring peculiarity as a parent of children who span 18 years, I will still be like all those parents who are experiencing this milestone for the first time.
You see, my superior understanding of the way in which time flies did not matter. It flew by me even as I tried to plant my feet and have it stand still. Indeed, the more I tried to resist the passing of time, the more pronounced the passing of time felt. That is the oddity of time, when you want it to fly by it rarely does, and when you want it to slow down, it flies by. It matters not what you want or believe you understand about the universe – it is, what it is. Well, dammit anyway.
So here I go, off to my youngest child’s graduation. I am filled with the same melancholy that I felt 18 years ago and a similar moment of clarity – how quickly time flies. Such is the way of life. Children grow up and become adults; and, parents have to reconcile all those memories of childhood milestones living in their heart and minds. And then parents, if they are very lucky, get to live this cycle again as grandparents, not that time will stand still – the point is it won’t. Enjoy the minutes, the hours, the days, the months, and the years, knowing that life is lived in the now.
Congratulations to Cheyenne and all the high school graduates celebrating this milestone and heading out to their next adventures. Have the time of your lives!
Another day in the new forty – obla di obla da