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Ticking Clocks

Okay, I lied.  There are two more thoughts I want to unpack from the party posts.

Yesterday, we went to a Purim carnival, just as we do every year.  The twins got dressed up in costumes, ate cotton candy (okay, that was the ChickieNob; the Wolvog would never touch something the consistency of cotton candy), and played carnival games for plastic prizes or stuffed animals.  They jumped inside the bouncey castles and hurtled down the inflatable slide.  And I spent some of the time thinking, “how many more of these will we get to do?”

Because that’s one of the problems with kids: they age out of things, and usually before you are ready.  This blog started with giving up the bottle.  When I wrote that post, I truly didn’t believe that I would still be writing here, eight years later, without another child.  I thought I would get to go through everything again.  But years ago, we switched mentally to, “we will likely not get to experience this again,” and since, I have noted each last, usually after it happened since you never seem to know when your last is going to be your last until it is your last.

So I have watched them age out of each childish thing, and that is a good thing.  You wouldn’t want a person to stay babyish forever.  But it’s still a hard thing to go through again and again.  If you’re terrible at having your child age, you never get better at it.  And if you’re fine with having your child age, this post probably won’t make a lot of sense to you.  So I guess I am writing it for people like me; people who are constantly looking at the moments they love and wondering how many more of them they’ll get to have.

There is no part of parenting I dislike (well, except maybe the tantrums).  I like combing the ChickieNob’s hair. (How much longer will she let me do it?  I stopped having my mother do my hair by 12 because she couldn’t get the hairsprayed bangs quite right.)  I like clipping their nails and making them costumes and reading them books.  I like driving them around to activities.  I like birthday parties and Purim carnivals and trick-or-treating.  And I know that all of these things will run out, dry up.  They will need me less and less as they age, or need me in a very different way.  They will want to do these activities less and less as they age.  How much longer do I have with birthday parties and Purim carnivals?  A year or two?  Maybe more?  Maybe less?  This could be the last one but I might not know it until it’s the last one.

We have a lot of ticking clocks in our life right now, and these intangible clocks tick very loudly.  I think about time all the… time.  We’re waiting for things to happen, waiting for things to be over.  Dreading things coming up, dreading things to be over.  Having a lot of clocks ticking at once makes it pretty damn loud in my head.

Sometimes I mistake the ticking sound from the mental clocks as bombs, and I cringe, waiting for the explosion until I remember that they’re just ordinary alarm clocks.  Everyone has them in their life.  No one gets unlimited, unfettered time.  The ticking is not indicating an upcoming destruction of my life.  The most important things in my life will still be here after those alarms go off and I need to wake up and start the next day of my life.  Because the reality is that the bombs in life are mostly silent, and they don’t give you a warning tick before they explode, bastards that they are.

What we’re hearing right now is just the good, old-fashioned passing of time, marking what we are waiting for and what we are wistful to have come to an end.

So I’ll grab whatever last Purim carnivals and birthday parties I can before it’s too late and we leave this stage of life.  The next stage will be interesting too, but it won’t be like this one.  The celebrations will be more subdued, more grown-up, smaller, less chaotic and less colourful.

Maybe that is why I think so hard and work so hard to throw parties: because I am already mourning the end of them.

16 comments

1 Catwoman73 { 03.17.14 at 10:06 am }

Yes, yes, yes! I didn’t get to complete my family the way I had hoped, either. Every time I am able to just sit and watch my daughter playing, I wonder if it might be the last time I get to see her doing whatever it is she’s doing. And it hurts. I think there’s still a little part of me that is still in denial, and somehow believes, despite everything that has come to pass, that I might still get another shot. But I know in my head that it isn’t at all realistic, so I try to savour every moment. I guess I’m just rambling, but I loved this post, because it does a wonderful job of describing what it is like to let go when you just aren’t ready.

2 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 03.17.14 at 10:18 am }

I get these feelings too (not usually over birthday parties or nail clipping, but some things). Hold on in whatever way feels best.

I recently saw the movie “About Time” (sort of – it was on a plane and I was travelling with children). This post reminds me of it. Not sure if it’s your thing or not – the philosophy certainly seems to gel.

3 KeAnne { 03.17.14 at 10:29 am }

I felt this very acutely over the weekend. I’m not sure what triggered it, but damn that clock is loud.

4 JB { 03.17.14 at 10:53 am }

Beautiful post. I think you are right to think of them as alarm clocks, not bombs. As Jay Gatsby (or F. Scott Fitzgerald) taught us, trying to relive the past only ends in death and destruction. We must move on with life rather than against it.

5 Sarah { 03.17.14 at 11:52 am }

Oh, I love this. As a parent of non-twins, I might just add that I still feel keenly the ache of that older child aging out of something, even though I might still get to do it with my younger. And that second child really does grow up faster than the first. I experience things differently with the second – it isn’t so much about me getting to mother a child of a certain age, but saying goodbye to that point in time with a particular child.

Perhaps a touch off topic, but have you read All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior? It is a book about how children influence their parents and some challenges of modern parenting in general. I really enjoyed it and thought of the book when I read your post.

6 Tiara { 03.17.14 at 1:11 pm }

I rocked E to sleep every night until she was about 2.5, holding her in my arms, kissing her forehead, eyes, cheeks, watching the time after she drifted off, knowing if I got up to put her in bed too soon, she would wake up. Eventually I transitioned her to fall asleep in her bed, though I still lay beside her until she drifts off.

A few weeks ago, she was having a rough day, missing me as I had been unavailable to her quite a bit. Trying to calm her I talked to her about when she was a baby & she would get this upset, I would hold her in my arms & kiss her head & rock her until she went to sleep. I asked her if she wanted me to do that then & she nodded. I scooped her up in my arms, wrapped her tightly in a blanket & rocked her until she drifted off to sleep.

I glanced at the clock, checking to see how long before I should put her in bed & it hit me, the nostalgia. I smiled & cried silently, sad, missing those moments & so grateful for this one moment where it was as it had been, even if just for that one bedtime…& giving me hope that after every last time, maybe, just maybe, there’d be just one more time…

So now reading this post of yours, tears! You capture that feeling so well.

7 Battynurse { 03.17.14 at 1:35 pm }

Such a beautiful post. I love it.

8 WGAJ { 03.17.14 at 4:06 pm }

I’m so glad to have read your post – I’ve never come across anyone who writes about this and have felt strange and alone. I’ve struggled so hard with this myself, starting in adolescence – I was sad about changing from a child to an adult. I experienced sadness to the point of tears at that age, looking at my baby book and knowing “things will never be this way again”. It seems strange, but I was thinking, “I’m never going to be my mom’s little girl again”. It was a seriously big deal at the time. And through the years, I’ve had a hard time with songs about the passage of time. When I went off to college in 1992, Suzy Bogguss had a country song on the radio titled “Letting Go” – I cried to this song over and over again. Since then, there have been songs so difficult for me to listen to: “You’re Gonna Miss This”, “Live Like You Were Dyin'”, “There Goes My Life”, “Don’t Blink”….hmmm. Country music – it may not be a good genre for me! Ever since becoming a mom to twins with the knowledge that we are likely not going to have any more babies, the sadness has hit me hard – so many “first times” means the “last times” for something else. Have you found any resources/books/support regarding this passage-of-time-melancholy phenomenon?

9 Ana { 03.17.14 at 4:49 pm }

Well, there are plenty of parts of parenting I dislike (though, come to think of it, its just different forms of tantrums, which both of my kids throw regularly), but I still get definitely feel the ticking. In some ways I really am excited for the fun things to come (like all the great stuff you happen to be in the middle of, with no-longer-toddlers but not-yet-teens), but there are so so many things I’ll miss even from this often frustrating and exhausting phase. I’m trying so hard not to wish it all away, even on my most tired and frazzled days.

10 It Is What It Is { 03.17.14 at 5:14 pm }

I had two things occur this weekend that siezed my heart: we relegated Baby G long unused burp cloths to the rag bag and, I said, with tear-filled eyes, to my husband as we were celebrating G taking 10 steps in a row, that we will never celebrate that first again.

I have said it countless times, that nothing marks the passage of time like children growing up.

Because of this post, I found charity in my heart for those parents who stayed with their child at my son’s recent Bday party, instead of dropping him off. Maybe they are holding on to their lasts a while longer, too.

11 Heidi { 03.17.14 at 9:13 pm }

Just … thank you for this.

12 Queenie { 03.17.14 at 10:58 pm }

For It is What it Is: You never know what has happened to their child in the past, or what that family has been through. It may be about something far darker and more traumatic than simply wanting to hold on.

As for this piece, totally. Time feels really short to me lately. I’m trying to hold fast to the idea that for every last, there are other firsts. As much as I hate lasts, I love firsts.

13 Charlie's Bird { 03.18.14 at 3:14 am }

What a poignant post. I feel those losses too… I already miss so much…

14 Ellen K. { 03.18.14 at 9:41 am }

I often avoid thinking about lasts. I suppose I’m not good with goodbyes, or I’m impatient. Whenever I’ve moved out of a dorm or an apartment, I’ve been (usually) unwilling to linger. DH always built in an extra 30 to 60 minutes of sitting down in his apartments to say goodbye, but I was terribly antsy when we did this together. My usual MO is to completely freak out as soon as I consider an imminent change, and then feel ready to move forward the next day.

I often think about your post in which you described being sad that you would have to leave college as soon as you arrived. This totally floored me. : P

I was so overwhelmed with twin infants (and PPD) that I didn’t record a lot of firsts. I generally like each stage as it comes along (after completely freaking out at first, as previously mentioned). But I do hear the ticking clock, increasingly, as the girls move into school age with a larger peer group. Soon they will criticize my singing in the car or in the shower. It won’t be long before they don’t want me to carry them downstairs first thing in the morning (they are 5 and very lightweight). I. has started distinguishing between “big kid” stuff and “baby” stuff (rejecting much of her room as “babyish”). I don’t mind when the girls go up to their room and shut the door, but I notice it. Sometimes they are so very eager to grow up, and other times they want to be babies again. I try to follow their lead as much as possible, but it’s difficult to not have my own fits and starts as well.

15 Alisa Winslow { 03.18.14 at 2:20 pm }

This post made me cry! Beautifully written.

I cried not only because I am at the peak of my hormone intake during the two week wait after the fourth transfer attempt for baby number two…but also because every day I wonder if a moment I have with my two year old IVF miracle will be the last.

I cry when I box clothes up and put them in the attic. I’m sad when she stops wanting to read favorite books. I ached when she began dressing herself (and celebrated that one too).

God I hope there is one more. But even if there is, I will mourn the loss of all this and more with that one too.

16 loribeth { 03.23.14 at 7:09 pm }

I hear the clock ticking every time I go home to visit my parents now… they are in their mid-70s now, and while they both come from good genes, and they can (still) generally run circles around me & dh, I have noticed them slowing down ever so slightly the last few visits. My dad has admitted he is finding it harder to keep up with the yardwork, and he & my mom will probably be selling their house & moving into a condo sooner vs later. I used to get the same feeling saying goodbye to my grandparents when I visited — “is this the last time? Am I going to see them again?” And eventually the day did come that they were gone. I still miss them horribly. 🙁

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