I remember walking along in the park one sunny weekday afternoon, enjoying the peace and solitude, even though I wasn’t alone. The spray fountain in the middle of the lake that surrounds the walking path was flowing freely, with the gentle sound of splashing in the water. I noticed lots of teenagers running along the path as well, it appeared, they were part of the local high school cross-country team practicing. A young man was fishing, as his mother sat on a blanket close by observing. An elderly lady sat on a bench feeding the ducks by the waterside, while another family had a picnic among the shade trees.
As I walked along the path by the water, I reflected on how I often used to do this with my two boys when they were young. They were always observing, making comments, doing things, picking up sticks, throwing food to the ducks, hiking in the wooded areas, and so on. I remember fondly how I watched them enjoying themselves, knowing full well how lucky I was to be witnessing this moment in their lives. As I walked this day, however, it was quieter. My boys are older now and they’re well into their own lives, doing their own things. The image is sharper, just how temporary life’s moments really are.
As a new parent, you’ll often hear the advice, “Enjoy it while it lasts.” Of course, at the time, you’re dealing with an infant who doesn’t sleep through the night, occasionally has colic, and you’re struggling with the anxiety and perils of being a new family. As they grow, you’re dealing with new challenges; new decisions to be made; new alerts to be aware of and prepared for; teaching them; and caring for them; all while trying to maintain some semblance of your own individual life and identity. Each step of the way moves quickly; infant; toddler; preschool; elementary; middle; then, high school. So little time exists between stages that you hardly have a moment to realize how swiftly it passes.
I pride myself on being one who enjoys the individual moments, both big and small. My children practically grew up like a real-life Truman Burbank, as I had a camera on them all the time, it seemed. And yet, even still, with all that insight and living in each moment as it happened, the speed of life still ran over me full throttle.
I realized on this warm, sunny afternoon, if it surpassed me this quickly, how others might feel that weren’t fortunate enough to be able to partake in, understand, or even realize these moments fully at the time. If you happen to be one of these people, don’t be dismayed. As we reflect in hindsight, we tend not to remember all the exact details. For instance, as my children were playing and enjoying themselves, there were likely other important things also going on in my life at the time. I’m sure I was also thinking about concerns I had, plans I was making, chores that needed to be done, and so forth. Those distractions don’t stand out to me because they were unimportant in retrospect, or at least not worthy of a lasting memory.
As we learn to grasp how temporary life’s moments really are, we remind ourselves to observe time from a different perspective. For instance, we measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, and days, but it’s much more than that. The more space we put between ourselves and time, the more we realize the traditional scales of measurement we use do not capture it completely. A pleasurable vacation may last seven days, but the memory is much longer. A loss may have only lasted a brief moment technically, and yet the pain can be felt many years later.
The point is, whether you’re a new parent for the first time, a veteran with young children and teens, or a seasoned parent with children who’ve already left the nest, we all have but a brief moment, a temporary moment, to truly experience what it is that’s happening. After that, it passes quickly.
As in the words of Kelseyleigh Reber from her fictional novel If I Resist, “Because if you blink, if you close your eyes or turn your head for even the briefest of moments, you might just miss it. And like most things in life, the transient, fleeting nature of the moment makes it all the more special.”
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