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June 16, 2010

Aging at the speed of time

2010.06 time "She's growing too fast." "I wish he would stay this way forever." "I can't believe how big she's getting!"

Do you ever think any of those things about your kids?

I never think those things.

I have a relative who always drops those cliches on my kids' heads. "They grow too fast," she always says. I always reply, "no they don't."

They grow just right. They grow a little every day. I've never understood the sentiment that wants to freeze them in time. It's selfish, isn't it? To preserve them in amber so that I can admire their dimpled elbows and funny pronunciations? I want them growing every day, because if they aren't, what horrible disease has befallen them?

I feel similarly about my own age. I'm 33 years old. I don't regret the numbers as they ascend. I don't romanticize my youth or demonize my aging. I believe I'm only as old as I feel, and I feel tired, but I don't feel old. I look forward to my birthdays. I enjoy celebrating them, even as I acknowledge another year gone by.

And yet, I still manage to forget I'm an adult. Maybe it's because the voice inside my head stopped aging around 19, but I received two pieces of news this week that stopped me in my thought-tracks: don't these things happen to my parents' friends? Surely these are older people's problems. Surely I am not that old.

A woman I know is undergoing brain surgery this week to explore and ideally remove an entwined brain tumor. She has a family. She has kids my kids' ages. She's not old. And we learned this weekend that a couple we know has decided to separate. Their boys are exactly my girls' ages. We haven't watched a divorce within our own peer group yet. Maybe, just once in a while, it isn't so bad to wish for time to be frozen in the past.

I think that, but just for a minute. I wish both of those families painless journeys. I'm keeping them close in my heart. Their news was hard to hear but I think of the beauty in time marching ever forward. I think of my own happy almost-nine-year marriage, of the lung tumor whose removal my husband overcame, of his clean bill of health. I think of my four-year-old who asked me last week, "how do you say you're starving but for thirsty instead of hungry?" and after I answered her, approached her teacher with "could I have some water? I'm parched." I think of my two-year-old who this past weekend pronounced the "r" in "orange" for the first time ever, and who sounded like such a big girl in doing so that my heart momentarily forgot to beat. I think of my four-month-old who almost figured out rolling over, but gets stuck on his belly because he doesn't know how to pull his arm out from under himself.

I can't wish for time to stand still because I can't deny him the chance to figure that out and tumble across the floor. But tacitly defending the march of time is so much easier in the context of a baby's milestones than a family's heartbreak. I have to remind myself that part of aging is facing our fears and our sorrows, lending our support, and firmly believing in stories with happy endings.

(Photo credit: Niffty..)

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post. Robin blogs at The Not-Ever-Still Life and tweets @noteverstill, and in both places she'd tell you that she'd prefer to think that cancer and divorce happen to much older people.


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