My four and five-year-old kids have no concept of time. Everything is either “a very long time ago”, “now” or “in the morning”. We have tried showing them calendars, using the old “in X sleeps” method and giving examples of historical events and significant cultural occurrences.
So this week, we’ve taken the next bold step of giving them wrist watches and explaining how to tell the time. It is not going well – unless “20 5 and 9” is a unit of time I am unfamiliar with.
Quite frankly I am in shock that we have already hit the milestone of learning to tell the time when it seems like only yesterday they were helpless little poop machines. Teeny crap factories that had no neck muscles or head control but could bring me to my knees in approximately 30 seconds.
As a new mum, I was equally besotted and terrified of these little humans I had created and was consequently wholly responsible for. From the get-go, they both got me good. I remember talking to friends who had children of the same age and at the same stage and saying “things have to get better, right?” I longed for the days when they weren’t so vulnerable, so tiny and fragile, filled with so much poop – but I couldn’t admit this out loud lest I be labelled as a terrible mother. “I’m not wishing the time away,” I would say.
But I was. I really was.
Five and a half years on, my early motherhood anxiety seems like a lifetime ago and yet, the feelings and memories are visceral. I can still smell the nappy cream and taste the baby food. I can hear the newborn cries and feel the bile welling up in the pit of my stomach.
If I could go back and tell “new mum me” anything, it would probably be that time and hindsight are a right pair of scoundrels. Time has the ability to drag, to convince you that you are going to be a batty unwashed milk provider forever, whereas hindsight can make you regret wishing those days away. After all, newborns don’t answer back and would never hide a wet nappy under their bed and pop a dry on one in an elaborate “I’m dry at night now” ruse.
They also don’t make you laugh so hard you doubt your bladder integrity. They don’t call pins and needles “peas and noodles”. They can’t make your heart explode all over your chest cavity by saying: “Mummy, I love you more than anyone has ever loved any mummy, ever.”
I’m hopeful that teaching Sonny and Bessie about time will help them to appreciate it. To understand that it passes quickly, and we should enjoy every second as much as we can. A tough lesson to teach and embody when society runs at such a pace.
We say we have so much to do, yet we don’t have time. Which is, of course, a procrastinators excuse.
Fitness enthusiast Joe Wicks, or ‘The Body Coach’ as he often goes by, has just become a new dad and shares inspirational posts on Instagram. The other night he admitted his body clock is all over the place and so he was exercising at 11.30pm, as it was the best time for him to do so. “Yeah yeah, it’s his job,” I hear you say – “He has to do it, it’s easy for him.” But is it?
We are all built of the same parts, living in the same society, and sure – privilege and money help but no amount of cash can get you onto an exercise bike after four hours of broken sleep. It’s simply knowing it will help, pushing yourself and not allowing excuses any airtime.
Now I can’t say that you will ever find me on an exercise bike at 11.30pm, but I am trying to practice patience and appreciation. As a mum, if I don’t walk the walk, I definitely can’t talk the talk. And I have to talk, all day, incessantly to my kids as to them, I’m a human Alexa.
It’s going to take time (see what I did there) for my cherubs to learn to read their wrist watches. So, for now, we can deal with the time vortex we all live in.
We can persist and take some delight from their little faces when they realise something is actually “in the morning”. Hearing them exclaim excitedly “I can’t wait!” Just like when they were babies and I couldn’t wait for them to grow and mature and be “easier”.
But it’s not easier. It’s just different. Life can still be tough, but in different ways. It’s a choice – to be clouded with doubt and regret and worry, or appreciate it for what it is. A day that will never happen again. One that can go in the memory hall of fame as a doozy, or have a line drawn under it to be refreshed in the morning. They’re growing so quickly. Learning to tell the time is hard. But I’m not going to wish it away.
I can wait.