What Children Teach Us About Time

The other day as I was picking up my daughter from preschool, I stood in the window, out of sight, watching the group of toddlers say goodbye to one another in the form of a song.

I like to do this, to watch my child move about and talk to her peers without interference. As I stood there, lost in a thought, a woman walked by, barely paused, and whispered, “They really show us so much about the passage of time, don’t they?”

Bam. Just like that, fireworks went off in my brain.

“Yes,” I said, after a breath. “They certainly do.”

It’s something I hadn’t quite been able to pinpoint until she blurted it, thinking it was nothing but small talk. But one of the most profound ways that life is forever changed is the moment you bring a child into the world and I didn’t even realize it until then.

Time trudges on, it always does. But there were many years when I was blissfully unaware that it was even happening. I stormed through life like a bulldozer. I drank, slept, walked fast and talked loud, without a moment’s pause.

Most of us go through a stage where we think we’re moderately invincible, where getting old seems worlds away, a form of escapism because the reality is too harsh and too difficult to fully wrap our minds around. You know you’re older today than you were yesterday and you’re younger today than you'll ever be, but the realness of it still eludes us.

That is, until you see time happening before your very eyes in the form of a child’s ever-changing face and growing vocabulary. A newborn goes from complete helplessness to a free-thinking human being in a few short years and you’re just along for the ride. It blows your mind day after day, but the days keep coming and going and coming again.

Days blend together and they all seem the same, like time isn’t real. Nothing changes, or so it seems. We work, work, work to put food on the table, take care of everyone but ourselves, rinse and repeat. We are so caught up in doing that we aren’t seeing. We don’t stop and realize that time is quite literally passing us by. And then we look at our children’s faces and it’s undeniable. Everything is constantly evolving and as you watch this person be new again and again and you realize that you also have the capacity to grow, change, learn and be new.

It’s why we say youth is wasted on the young. Age is something we're taught to dread and, as I near thirty, I know why: Because it doesn’t stop, not when you’re thirty or forty or sixty. But realizing this is a gift and one you have to harness because it makes you watch closely, do genuinely and hear more clearly.

Many of my most important life choices have been made, but in a way, in many ways, the world is still in front of me. What I learn, teach, see and do is as important now as it ever was or will ever be and with the help of my daughter, I can breathe it in instead of letting it pass me by. The world doesn’t stop, but sometimes I can see it moving and that will always be breathtaking.

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