Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Years are Short

Yesterday was my birthday. In two weeks, we'll have been in Estonia for one year. A day after that, Boy will turn 4.

Four, my God. Four.

There is a common quip about parenting young children: The days are long but the years are short. As I round the bend to completing seven years in this career, I'd posit that that's equally true of the Foreign Service.

There are some days with small kids that seem they'll never end: diapers, tantrums, Dora, playing hide n' seek again, cooking, cleaning, more diapers, administering more time outs than is actually productive, reading a story for one-millionth time. Despite the fact that I average only two full days like that a week, I often catch myself eagerly awaiting bedtime, ready to move from the monotony of play to the not-at-all-monotonous state of watching TV on the couch.

Boy has a new babysitter after school, and on their first day together I hovered a bit after bringing him home, waiting for tantrums or to soothe his new-person nerves. Needn't have bothered. He sent me back to work with nary a wave. While he still has his baby moments, with every day he grows closer to the teenager who won't want me to pick him up from school, to the grown man I'll hope I hear from once a week. Where has this time gone? Why was I ever wishing it away?

I'm sure my parents were thinking something similar yesterday. My God, I get it now. Don't grow up too fast. You have your whole life to be an adult.

When people ask about serving in India, I now have the perspective to explain it in a similar way: it went fast, and was an amazing experience. Each day dragged and I couldn't wait to get out of there. I imagine even the toughest posting goes by in a flash, at least in hindsight. I thought my sweaty Mumbai days, trapped in an apartment with a difficult toddler, would never end. Here we are: 31 and almost-4, with a year in our new home under our belt.

When I consider each previous assignment and place--even pre-Foreign Service--I imagine it a box. It's packed, sealed, done. New York, Israel, Korea, India. Just like Boy's toddlerhood or Girl's infancy. It's over; the crucial memories are packed up and safe, but the details--the stuff that composed a lazy Saturday in Seoul or each day with a 15-month old--they're gone.

I'm terrible with time. I keep thinking I have more of it, and inevitably I blink a few times and understand that a day, a week, a year has passed when I had said I'd get to it in a moment, an hour, the next afternoon. I call it my adult ADD, but the truth is it's just a lack of self-discipline and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that this moment is all I know for certain that I have.

It's a rare sunny day in Tallinn, and I'm home with Girl, who is recovering from a mild cold. When she wakes up from her nap, I think I'll ditch the usual routine of helping her build a tower while I compulsively check my phone, and take her on a bike ride. After all, tomorrow it might be raining, and soon she too will have left her toddlerhood behind.

1 comment:

Donna said...

All so true! I can't believe I'm two years into this tour in Amman already. It feels as though I just got here.