Time flies, as the saying goes. So, too, does childhood.
The passage of time is a funny thing. Sometimes, it drags on forever. Or it can disappear in the blink of an eye.
That period of time every morning between when our kids declare they’re ready for school and when we actually leave the house? In reality, probably about five minutes. Feels like forever, though.
Looking at old photos every morning on Facebook Memoires that date back to five or six years ago? Seems like only yesterday.
So much of our social media-curated lives encourages us to reminisce about the past that it’s easy to lose sight of the present – or the speed with which the future is hurtling towards us.
Then and now
Every day, I see photos of Isaac aged five or less. In my mind’s eye, he’s always that age. Maybe he always will be. And yet he officially becomes a teenager in less than two months’ time. (Unofficially it’s felt like he’s been one for at least two years already.) Early next year he will choose his GCSE subjects. He’s already taller than his mother; he’ll surpass me within 12 months, I suspect. Before we know it, he’ll be choosing his A-levels, heading off to university and moving out of our house forever.
Toby often appears alongside his brother in those old photos. He’d have been two or three at that time. Next week he’s sitting secondary school entrance exams, the outcome of which will set his path for the next five to seven years. I still find it difficult to reconcile Toby today with the toddler who used to stumble around with his rugby top on back-to-front.
Sometimes those photos will also feature a young Kara, aged anywhere between a few weeks and 18 months. Today she’s eight (going on 18); in eight years’ time she will already have completed her GCSEs.
There are times when I look at all three kids and wonder if I fell asleep one day and woke up two years later having missed a significant chunk of their childhoods. They’ve all changed so much and sometimes it seems like I’ve barely noticed. Did I blink and somehow miss it?
Savouring the present
Isaac has grown up so much and become so much more independent over the past two years. As with any near-teenager, it’s an ongoing challenge for him; a time of huge change.
In truth, though, I’m struggling even more than he is. I’m not adapting quickly enough and it’s not helping my relationship with him. My greatest fear is that by the time I’ve finally worked it out, he will be out of our lives and pursuing his own.
At the other extreme, I’m acutely conscious about not missing out on the rest of Kara’s childhood. She’s our only daughter but – more relevantly – she’s our youngest child. We will never have an eight-year-old in our lives again, which wasn’t the case with the boys. If I miss out now, that’s it. Gone.
Which is why I haven’t been sorry about working from home during the lockdown. I’ve been available so much more. And so has she. Until the last few weeks, she wasn’t doing her regular six classes and training sessions each week. So we’ve both been around to spend extra time together. As traumatic as the pandemic has been for so many people, in this one small way it has been a huge blessing for me.
It’s funny how kids are so often in such a hurry to grow up – but parents often want the prime years of childhood to last forever. And while it’s lovely to have those regular reminders of the past frozen for posterity and popping up on my social media feeds, I don’t want them to detract from enjoying the next few years. There will be ample time to remember the past once they’ve all grown up and flown the nest. When that happens, their childhood really will have slipped through my fingers forever.
Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the pictureSlipping Through My Fingers, ABBA
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers
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