Published Originally Oct. 7, 2011
“Where has the time gone?” I say to just about anyone who will listen. “Don't get me wrong; I want my children to grow up (the alternative is unthinkable). I just want to know: Where has the time gone?”
It’s baffling. I can't figure out how my brown-eyed girl (born just yesterday), is today a young lady looking at colleges. Or how, overnight, I went from buying my little boy light-up Batman sneakers to shopping for size 15 Nikes™. And how--how in the world--did my baby girl get to her last year of middle school already, when just last night I was sneaking her ragged pink blankie into the laundry?
Where has the time gone?
I don't know, but I think I’m looking for it in the wrong zone. In Greek, there are two words for time. There’s Chronos—time that is measured, ya know, chronologically. And then there is Kairos—time that is measured by experiences. Chronos dissolves into seconds, days, years. Kairos, though . . . Kairos remains.
Chronos counts birthdays by ordinal numbers: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, . . . . But Kairos thinks back to a ballerina party that blended over the course of chronos into a makeover session, a Firefighter party for preschoolers that ended as a pick-up basketball game for teenagers in the church gym, and a ladybug piñata in our backyard in Sanford, NC that exploded into one surrounded by teenagers in our Asheville garage.
Chronos sees the seasons come and go and checks off another year. But Kairos sees differently. Kairos sees the Queen of Hearts, Angelina Ballerina, and Thing 1, all with curly blond hair; a puppy, a robot, and a number of clowns, all making lots and lots of noise; a pediatrician, Hermione Granger, and Toy Story’s Jessie, all of whom were far more grown-up than they should have been. Kairos remembers . . . the ball dropping, its year changing in that chronos way all the way down; sandcastles washed away one year and built back up the next; trips to Houston, trips back home, & trips back out again. Kairos smiles remembering all the games of Barnyard Bingo, Blink, & Bananagrams; all the books we've read—from Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton to Brian Jacques and J.K. Rowling; all the hours of Veggietales, American Idol, and Psych. And Kairos weeps, weeps as faded faces and sharp memories come to mind: Wayne, Paxten, Matthew, Caleb, Cliff . . . . Chronos, distracted by the clock’s ticking, the days passing, just can't keep up.
Chronos says things like, “How long’s it been . . . .”
Kairos says, “Remember when . . . ?”
Chronos, nervous and fretful, checks its watch and marks days off the calendar.
Kairos flips through photographs and artwork, videos, mementos.
Chronos grows anxious.
Kairos becomes nostalgic.
Where has the time gone?
Chronos doesn’t know.
But Kairos does.
Kairos says, “Look around you. It’s all right here.”
Published August 8, 2012
These days, in my world of parenting, I’m experiencing some serious déjà vu. See, when Trellace was about to start kindergarten (ya know, yesterday), good-hearted folk, attempting to be encouraging, offered familiar platitudes. Things like, “Oh she’s ready!” or “She’ll do great,” or “She’ll be fine! Don’t worry.” Now she’s going away to college, and those tired expressions have been roused for the occasion.
People mean well. They do. But what these helpful soothsayers don’t seem to realize is that I know all this. Really, I know better than anyone how perfect Georgetown University is for my daughter, how great she will do there, how ready she is. I am not at all worried about her.
And frankly, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—I want more than for my children to grow up. I have friends whose children never got to grow up. Growing up is a part of life, and I want my children to have full, productive, grown-up lives.
Consequently, I want to let go. I’m excited for Trellace as she enters this new stage. I am delighted that she gets to go to go to her dream college, to live in her favorite city, and to study in a rich, challenging environment. Also, I want the world to experience how great my girl is, how much she has to offer. I don’t want to hide her under a bushel when her light is so bright. I want her to shine, in DC and in the world.
It’s just . . . well . . . even though I want to let go it’s really, really hard.
See I want the change; I just can’t bear it. I want her to grow up, to leave home, to become all God intends her to be. And I can’t bear it.
I can’t bear the idea that I won’t see her for months at a time. I can’t bear being out of touch. I just can’t bear it.
It will never be the same. Sure, we will be home base, but we won’t be home. Not really. This will be the place she visits between semesters, on vacation, before she starts a new job. It will never be the same. Never.
And I’m okay with that. I am.
It’s just . . . I will miss this. I will really, really miss this.
I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
Sometimes I pull older posts back up and promote them to new readers. I was about to do that with this four-year-old post, so I thought I would add a picture. I googled "Trailways bus, Georgia, Country roads." In seconds (amazing!) I had pages of photos that matched or almost matched my search criteria. Though I hadn't put the date in the search string, the pictures were mostly illustrating events from the forties, fifties, or sixties. Perfect! Except not really. The top ten or fifteen returns did include buses on country roads; the problem was, each depicted some form of violence: buses burning, riots, people being beaten. Hideous.
And from the midst of all that comes this story about my daddy, on a back road in Georgia, riding a Trailways™ bus.
It wasn’t something a boy got to do every day you know: taking the Trailways™ bus from his home to his grandparents' place 20 miles away--especially by himself, seeing as he had half a dozen siblings who would have loved to have joined him. But that’s just what my daddy did one Georgia day some decades ago.
“Was it 1947 or 1948?” Daddy asked himself, folding his napkin in half, then into fourths, then eighths before unfolding it only to repeat the process, this time on the diagonal. “Well let’s see. I know I’d been baptized.”
Daddy seemed to wander back through his memories arriving at the little Baptist church over the railroad track and down the road from his family home. “I was nine when I made my profession of faith.” (We all knew that. Daddy loved telling that story.) “But it took more than a year for the preacher to get around to my baptism.” Baptisms only happened in the summer when the creek was warm enough, but why Daddy didn’t receive the sacrament the summer after he walked the aisle is a mystery. “I reckon it was 47 or maybe it was 48,” Daddy declared this time with conviction. “Whichever it was, it was after I’d been baptized,” Daddy said, certain. “‘Cause I know I’d been baptized.”
So back in 1947 (or 1948) Daddy, soaped up and shiny for his special trip, boarded the bus. The bus was nearly full. Back then, segregation was law, and down in the Deep South Jim Crow ruled the buses with at least as much authority as he had in the classrooms. Daddy, belongings in hand, worked his way from the front toward the back of the bus looking for a seat, finally finding an empty one just inside the Whites Only section. He plopped his things down and took his seat. The bus started up again, chugging on toward Daddy’s adventure.
In those days, at least in rural Georgia, bus drivers would pull over occasionally to pick up riders. You see, folks needing a ride would wait along the side of the road, and then they’d pay a pro-rated fare for their truncated trip. Daddy looked out the windows, watching the Georgia terrain ease past. In the distance, Daddy could see a woman waiting. A child was with her: a very young child. The woman’s arms full of bundles, she still managed to keep hold of the child’s hand. The bus inched closer. Daddy’s view sharpened. The woman was black.
Daddy glanced over his shoulder. The section behind him, the seats designated for this mother and child, were all taken. The bus bumped to a stop. The woman, shifting her load to access her fare while still holding tight to her little one, climbed aboard.
“I remember deliberating on that thing, ‘Should I or shouldn’t I.’” Meanwhile, the woman got closer. “I’d been taught to respect our elders; she was an adult and I was just a kid. But mostly,” Daddy’s voice caught. He cleared his throat and gazed above our heads, “Well, I had the Holy Spirit. Because of that, I was guided, prompted. I knew what was right.”
As the woman got to his row, Daddy met her eyes. Picking up his things, he slid over to the window seat, leaving the aisle seat free. Her expression hardly changed as she placed her things on the floor, lifted her child into her lap, and took her seat: a seat in the White’s Only section of the bus, a seat given her by my daddy who was just an 11 year old boy (or maybe 12).
And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us . . . Acts 15:8 NRSV
“It'll get better,” the stranger said, punctuating his insightful comment with that know-it-all belly laugh that indicated he knew exactly zilch, “in about 18 years!” His laugh crescendoed, then faded into the distance as he walked away shaking his head, still snickering at his own joke.
I looked into the two-week old face of my daughter Trellace sheltered as she was by a tiny pink bonnet and a dainty lace shawl. Her chocolate brown eyes looked back at me, fluttering curly lashes three sizes too big. Better than this? Impossible.
He was confused, that stranger. Maybe he thought I resented rather than relished the neediness of my newborn. He might have thought I had postpartum depression, not the postpartum elation that really kept me up at night gazing into the bassinet, awed by the gift of this child.
Yet in a way—a sort of accidental way—my cackling advisor was right. Parenthood has gotten better. Because every day, the blessing has gotten more amazing; and every day I am more humbled by the beauty of it.
It got better the first time Trellace smiled at me and the first time she laughed. Actually, all the firsts grew the gift: the first hug, the first time she said “Ma-Ma,” the first steps, the first conversation. The newness of those moments have made parenting fresh again and better—surprisingly, impossibly, better.
Different, sure. But better, too. Better because I know Trellace better now than I did in those first moments of her life. Better because I know me better and hopefully have gotten a little more skilled at this parenting gig over the years. Better because as Trellace has grown past toddlerhood and preschool, past the elementary days and the middle school years, our relationship has grown as well.
Now, we like the same movies. Now, we have inside jokes; we laugh together. Now, Trellace knows things I don't, so I learn from her. Now, we can be quiet together and that’s okay.
All of this has caught me totally by surprise, because I loved the baby days—cooing, crawling, cuddling. And the preschool years—oh how sweet the preschool years were, punctuated daily by gargantuan delights in infinitesimal joys. Then of course the elementary school days—loved those: field trips, classroom parties, special new friends. With Trellace, even middle school was fun, because she really came into herself then. In fact, at every stage, I've thought, Better than this? Impossible!
So now when I see a new mom cradling an infant, I can look into her eyes and say, “You know what? It will get better. Really! As wonderful as this minute is? It gets even better.”