The last few weeks, even more so than usual, has been one long reminder of the relentlessness of time.
This should not be some grand revelation. I know I’m getting older, you know? Like, unquestionably. My joints make noises that if, say, my car was making, it’d be in the shop the same day. One beer, and I’m falling asleep at the dinner table. And this past year, I realized I have a favorite goddamn Tupperware¹ — that’s game over, folks. That’s peak Old Person, right there.
But I have the context of years to gauge my change, you know? Everything that I’m cognizant of everything that defines me as a person, has come to be over the course of years. And at some point, I don’t want to say I stopped growing, but I definitely hit a plateau. Twenty-seven-year old Jess was a totally different person than seventeen-year-old Jess, but twenty-seven year old Jess and thirty-seven-year old Jess have a hell of a lot in common (minus a penchant for painting, a few stretch marks, and about fourteen inches of hair), even though the same ten years separate them.
That’s because at some point we just sort of stop Becoming, and just… Are. We spend years and years figuring things out, making major cognitive, social, and emotional leaps, and then — for most of us — that all sort of tapers off. It’s not that we don’t still grow and change, but at some point in our adult lives, personal revelations and milestones generally become a lot fewer and further between.
But having a kid has thrown my sense of time out the window. Because my son is four-and-a-half and still very much Becoming, and he is Becoming at a pace that is astounding, and exciting, and relentless.
Because in his life, absolutely fucking everything is revelatory. Everything in his life is felt with the intensity of the novel: an Experience, or an Adventure, or a Tragedy. He’s hitting new milestones at a breakneck pace, waking up some mornings suddenly able to do something or understand something that he’d be struggling with hours before sleep the previous night. New words are entering his vocabulary everyday, and his ability to regulate, read, and respond to his own and other peoples’ emotions with nuance is growing and developing constantly.
And now he’s starting pre-K.
And we’re jumping in with both feet. No half-day, three-days-a-week trail period; starting in September, Bear will be at school from 7:45 to 3:15, five days a week. He has a uniform. He’ll pack a snack and eat a served breakfast and lunch. He’ll have music and theatre recitals, he’ll do art projects. He’ll learn to read.
It’s scary. I mean, it’s ridiculously exciting, too, but also scary, to see the last remaining vestiges of the Baby I’ve coddled for the last four years fall away and reveal, like, a Big Kid. Someone who gets their own food from the fridge, uses the potty by himself, picks out his own clothes and dresses himself, and now, goes to school. Someone who’s sphere of influence is about to grow dramatically.
That does scare me. I’m ecstatic for my son to meet new people — he is social and sociable almost to a fault (“I have no stranger danger!”) — but I am afraid of the boy I have raised to be curious, creative, experimental, and unburdened by gender expectations being hurt, or ridiculed, or called out for being different. It’s a common fear, I know. It’s probably also mostly unfounded, as he always has the support of our family and friends, but the fear is there.
My time as his Greatest Influence is coming to an end soon. His peers, his friends — their opinions are going to start holding a lot more weight very, very soon. It’s scary.
And it’s relentless. It just keeps going on from here, where I watch my son move further and further away from me.
Here I am, trying to juggle the time I have left with my Baby while prepping him to be successful as a Big Kid, struggling to keep my own life on track and my creativity afloat. Trying to cram as much as I can in the brief time I have before I have to re-add work to this mix.
Right now, I have one week left.
I wonder how long I would need for it to ever feel like I had enough.
¹Mr. Lid. Fucking life-changing.
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