We’re nearly three months into the school year, and I still feel like I’m pretending. We’ve gone from the blistering heat of August to the cool, leaf-blowing breezes of October, and I still don’t feel like this is real. For ten weeks now I’ve driven the same road around the school and waited with the same parents in car line, but it still feels off somehow.
When she first started kindergarten, I was struck not only by the shock of having a school-aged kid, but by the implication that I, therefore, am old enough to be the parent of a school-aged kid. It didn’t seem right somehow. As I told my mom, “When I was in elementary school, all the parents were so….so….well, so old! And me? Well, I’m not old! How can this be happening already?”
She laughed when I told her that, as parents often do when their kids come to them with the revelations of growing older, but the truth was that behind the kind of silly approach to it, I really was seeking an answer. How can this be happening? This feels like pretend. I feel like I’m just going through the motions.
And I think many of us go through whatever we’re going through with that same detached feeling. We go through the motions, floating from one day to another, not really giving thought to the fact that this is real. This is not pretend. This is life. It is happening now, and there won’t be any do-overs. Today is for real.
The psalmists said it this way:
“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” (Psalm 39:4-5)
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:13-16)
So it seems that it’s not just us in this fast-paced social media world, with all of our distractions and multi-tasked chaos. No, hundreds of years ago it was man’s tendency, also, to float through life as though time would march on forever…as though tomorrow were a guarantee…as though today were simply a dress-rehearsal. With our limited view, it’s easy to focus only on what we see in the here and now. It’s easy to sit squarely in today with no awareness of how the earth spins while we can’t feel it….of how we on this blue orb continue to circle, circle, circle the sun without pause. We look out our windows and the change is imperceivable, so our subconscious convinces us that everything is staying the same.
But the marks on the wall indicating my daughter’s growth…the increasing number of silver hairs peeking from my temples…the turning and falling of leaves it seems we *just* watched bud…the Halloween events that mark our calendars where we just crossed out the back to school nights…those things stand as constant reminders that while the days may seem long, the years are very short. Time marches on, like the Energizer bunny of my childhood. (And the mere mention of that silly pink bunny further ages me.)
Over the past three months or so, as I have watched the trees change on my route to and from my daughter’s school, I have become keenly aware that time is moving. The continuum does not pause simply because I don’t feel like this can be real. Things will not stand still just because I feel like I’m a kid pretending to be a grownup. My daughter is in kindergarten, and with every day that passes she is closer to first grade. I am the parent of a school-aged child, and every afternoon as my energy wanes while she is still going strong, I am reminded that I am not as young as I used to be. Summer has faded into fall, and fall will soon blend into winter. Time is moving, life is happening, and none of it is pretend. I only have today, and whether it feels real or not, I have to live like there’s no tomorrow.