Friday, September 17, 2010

Time Matters

The subject of time has been high on the radar as of late.  It's hard to get six children of varying degrees of morning wakefulness dressed, fed, prepared for the day with lunch in hand and out the door; two by 6:45, the other 4 by 7:30.  Even if we all get up at six, (which we all don't), there is a crunch to this span in the day.  There are also the other three children who don't have anywhere to be, but do also wake and want breakfast and contribute to the general chaos.  

Laying out the clothes the night beforehand, having the menu posted on the refrigerator for breakfast and lunch and book bags at the door and having my husband drive the first two to the metro while I get the other four ready for school, these things all help.  Still, it doesn't account for the normal give and take, cat and dog moments that come from being brothers and sisters.  It doesn't take much for the scheduled leave of 7:30 to get overshot.

Fights will happen as a matter of course.  They're part of the breathing DNA of siblings.  There will be spills.  Disagreements about food or a lack of milk unanticipated as a result of late night snacking will happen.  Sometimes a child will not get up on time even after repeated warnings, reminders and messages. 

Then there are the intentional saboteurs.  People have tried to cheat the systems we've put in place to expidite our mornings by putting their backpacks by the door but leaving their books and assignments in the other room where they did their homework.  Why?  I don't know!  I don't know!  They're kids is the only explanation I need and the only one that makes any sense.    Two of mine will open their backpacks to check through for things and take things out that I put in, one sometimes goes through his lunch to see if he likes everything I made. 

I become anxious if only because it means moving forwards is a constant upstream battle.  Tears in pants and pecking order disputes over bathrooms cause confusion and delay. Shoes get lost and socks aren't matching.  NO ONE CAN FIND A SINGLE HAIRBRUSH OR COMB IN THE ENTIRE HOUSE!!!  "We're out of my favorite kind of toothpaste."  "I don't like mass days, the sweater is itchy."  He/she took my shirt/tie/socks/breakfast.  "He didn't eat breakfast."  "She ate mine." "It might rain, should we get out our coats?" (Sun is shining, sky clear).  Some of the stuff we just ignore, but it requires a willingness on the part of my kids and me to overlook whatever it is that is less than perfect picture. 

Ignoring a detail isn't always in the personality of the person dealing with the wardrobe problem, parent or child.   We're trying very hard to launch this army on a daily basis but even getting up at 5:30 or 5:45 would not account for those moments where siblings decide to play bumper cars with the trash cans as they bring them down the walk and one kid gets soaked with morning dew requiring a complete outfit change minutes from departure time or I get absorbed in a conversation or a thought.  Heaven forbid I or anyone else daudles in the shower! Ultimately, it's a fragile working but unforgiving system.

Time is a jealous mistress and she steals whatever she can.  I can lose five hours to writing and phone calls and chores or blink through two years in an instant.  Tomorrow is the Fall Festival.  Last year I was delayed on the day of the event from being first at the school for set up because my car was stuck behind a funeral procession.   Being anxious about many things as I sat waiting and watching people being anxious about the only thing that matters was not lost on me.  Saying a prayer for the whomever and their family, and hoping both that it would not take long, and that this farewell had a lot of guest coming to say they loved this person's life, it was impossible not to be hit by the difference between being on time, and being aware of time and how often I lose that perspective.
Today, the morning seems to  be drifting lazily along, but I know the undertow will pull me faster than I anticipate as I make up the list of things to do. Today is my youngest son's birthday and I cannot remember the exact moment he was born.    My oldest is applying to college; his birth seems like yesterday and I can remember the smells of the hospital room. Where did the time go and why is it always missing after we notice, why do we always seem to retire one year too late, notice the gifts around us once they seem fleeting, find the beauty we almost missed when it is fading?  Stopping to smell the roses ought to be done in its peak, yet I find I'm always noticing just as things begin to lose that awe of the moment; when a baby becomes a toddler, a teen becomes a man, when summer is becoming fall.  
Recently, I read a piece talking about how being on time is a form of mortification of the flesh, it requires sacrifice, sublimation and effort.  I readily agree, but I also think tolerating those who show up late is a form of mortification of the flesh; it requires charity on the part of the person put out by those late, and humility and gratitude on the part of the tardy one(s).  While I know the last shall be first,  I do worry about the many things for which we ought to be prompt, and about actually or appearing to hit the snooze button on those moments when we must be wakeful watchful servants.   This precious short span of life we are allotted, will get frittered by the minutia. I also stress simultaneously that the big picture of our family, of our lives will be lost because I didn't pay attention to details that would have made it an easier and better witness even just to ourselves.

And I'm never quite sure where we are, only that time is passing in leaps and bounds and I'm supposed to be vigilant and I'm not always.  Ultimately, if we would love well, we oblige our lives to others.  To love well, we must be present, and that requires presence.   All presence requires of us in reality, is time.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to Paul. I wish we could be present to Paul, but we sent presents, instead, and I do not think they will be present today. So happy Birthday week to Paul instead. Love, Mom (grandmother to Paul and many others, too)

Laurinda said...

What a great post! I just wanted to tell you that I am a newlywed and we look forward to those hectic days of having lots of kids and things going on. You and your family are a blessing that set a great example to young couples. God bless!
~Lauren in Austin, TX

MightyMom said...

You said a mouthful!

Linda said...

What continually surprises me is the number of times I've been running late, only to come across an accident on my way. If I'd been on time, would it have been me there? For that reason, I look at these late starts as a hidden blessing.

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