When my wife turned thirty-one, my youngest son told her, “Hey Mom, only twenty-nine years until you’re sixty!”
I’m sure sixty seems pretty far away to my son, but kids have no idea time will pass faster and faster as they get older. When I was a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to calendars or seasons because a year of life only had three phases:
1. Summer vacation
2. The time between summer vacation and Christmas vacation
3. The time between Christmas vacation and summer vacation
Phase 2 seemed to last an eternity. Time passes so slowly as a kid unless you’re really dreading something. This is why I schedule shots for my kids on December 26 and a visit to the dentist on the first day of summer vacation. My kids will attest to how quickly these dates always seem to come.
I wish my parents had cared enough to schedule a full check-up for me on December 26. In the weeks before Christmas I would constantly check the clock, willing it to go faster. My mom would send me outside, and I would ride my bike to a friend’s house, play basketball, eat sugary cereal we didn’t have at my house, play video games, trade baseball cards, throw snowballs, make a snow fort, then return home to check the clock and only fifteen minutes had passed.
As an adult, if I have fifteen free minutes to do anything I want, I usually choose to sit. If a friend calls and says he’ll be fifteen minutes late, I just sit right next to the door and wait. If I tried to make a decision on doing something worthwhile with my fifteen minutes, I’m sure by the time I had decided I would look at the clock and realize three hours had passed. The sitting isn’t a complete waste though since I try and multitask and often manage to fit in some staring and if I’m especially efficient, possibly some tapping of my foot.
Now time passes so quickly that I seriously consider leaving the Christmas decorations up all year long. When my wife and I shop for decorations I lean towards purchases that can be slightly altered to look good no matter the season. A snowman statue works at Christmas. But the snowman can also be a decoration throughout winter. Give him sunglasses during the summer and a trick-or-treat bag at Halloween, and you’ve got a year round decoration.
After Halloween I had difficulty removing a giant cloth cobweb from above the door and decided to leave it up for the next Halloween. It finally fell down on its own in May. Our kids’ friends only started getting over their fear and coming back to the house again in June.
The period of the cobweb over the door only lasted eight months to me, but for my kids this is more like eight of my years. When they look back on memories of our current home, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll remember it having a giant cobweb over the front door for some reason.
I’ve started telling time according to perception. My oldest son turns ten this week, and I told him it’s hard to believe he’ll be eighteen in five years. He tried correcting my math, but I explained I meant he would be eighteen in five of his nine-year-old years. He still didn’t get it.
I’ve also had difficulty explaining this concept to adults. I had a friend who just turned twenty-five, and I said, “Hard to believe you’ll be thirty in a couple years and forty years old in seven.” I was just trying to say she should make her twenties count because they were almost over and each decade of her life would seem to go faster, but something about her response told me she’s unlikely to invite me to her party next year. Maybe she’ll be over it in a year’s time, although that year will probably be over faster than she expects.