Aug. 1, 2011 at 10:54 AM ET
Older parents all say the same thing when they see a couple with an infant.
It goes by so fast. Just cherish every moment. In the blink of an eye, he’ll be in college. You won’t believe how fast it goes.
Is that right? At risk of sounding like a totally ungrateful jerk, what I truly can’t believe is that taking care of a baby/toddler can be so tedious and terrifying and boring and confusing that it can actually make time stand still. Sorry, I love my child madly, but I’m just telling you, he has the ability to stretch space-time.
In your face, Science, because I know for a fact that while strolling a newborn around a reservoir again and again or singing “Rainbow Connection” to a toddler thrashing around wide awake in his crib, I have looked at my watch only to be certain that time has actually stopped. Many times in my two years as a parent, I have experienced five-minute chunks of time that felt for sure like hours. I’ve had to check my phone against my watch just to be sure it wasn’t broken. No, my devices were still in order. I had just entered the mom time zone, where the second hand is weighted not with molasses, but diaper paste.
I’m not talking about a snail’s pace. I’m talking about a dead snail’s pace.
Glacial? Yes. Punctuated by moments of transcendent and unparalleled joy? Of course, yes, a million times yes. But are the hours and days flying by so quickly that I feel the need to grab and clutch them like dollars flying off a broken-down Brink’s truck in a windstorm? Not so much.
There are times that while I’m literally nodding at some sappy dad whose teenager just left for college, fixing my face with that “this motherhood thing is so blessed” look, it’s all I can do not to grab him by the collar he had time to iron and yell, “Dude, you MUST be kidding me. It’s been nine hours that I’ve been holding this squirming baby waiting in line for coffee chumming it up with you.”
There’s an excellent (for time-killing) automotive museum here in Los Angeles that has a special floor for kids. I’ve taken Buster there, run around, played with the toy trucks, climbed on every exhibit, eaten lunch, changed a diaper or two, gone up and down the escalators, thrown in a few elevator rides, made another round through the exhibits of old cars and little fire trucks, swapped names and kid ages with 12 other moms only to look at my watch and realize I had been there a whopping 45 minutes. My amazing, energetic, beautiful child never stops moving, but time sure does.
So look, all you veteran parents who tell us rookies how time flies, are you messing with our minds, or do you just not remember how it was?
Your kid can talk, maybe even philosophize, maybe watch an entire movie with you or remove the lid from his own beverage. To make a very annoying and obvious point, your kid wipes himself. That’s right, he recognizes the feeling inside his body that signals an upcoming need to relieve himself, he finds the nearest restroom, he pulls down his own pants, and you have nothing to do with the entire interaction. Your hand has not touched a moistened wipe in many years.
Maybe those memories are so far away that the distance creates some kind of emotional parallax effect. From where you are, things look different.
This may be a surprise, but I’m not ragging on you older parents for saying that. I love you for it. It’s so universal, so commonplace, that it must be a truism that raising children is something that in retrospect you always wish you could have savored more. When I see an empty-nest mom looking down at my little boy in his Grover T-shirt, I just know what she’s going to say. It never fails. I can set my watch by it.
Teresa Strasser is an Emmy-winning television writer, a two-time Los Angeles Press Club Columnist of the Year and a multimedia personality. She is the author of a new book, "Exploiting My Baby," the rights to which have been optioned by Sony Pictures.