For those of you who haven’t yet taken part in the glorious experience of parenthood, allow me to prepare you for one of the harsh (and, in the end, best) truths of it: There will never be enough time.
For anything egotistical, that is – for sorting out your music, your photos, for reading, for watching TV, or (as is my current case) for writing.
So there’s all this stuff I’ve been meaning to write and do that has been replaced with cradling and walking and bathing and feeding and putting to bed and telling stories and fooling around with LEGO bricks, not to mention waking up in the middle of the night and shooing off nightmares or checking the covers and pushing stray little feet back under them, and I love every minute of it (even the tantrums, which kind of remind me of someone I used to know a long time ago), except for it having squeezed my free time into a little speck sandwiched between work and resting.
That, I think, is the first stage, the one you outlive when you realize that you’ve been thinking about things the wrong way round all the time.
You know you’ve turned that corner when the kid giggles and comes running to you in a way that you cannot but realize it’s all worthwhile, because it’s not so much about having a part of yourself taken away but as giving it (in terms of time) to someone who will always need you1.
Still, sometimes other stuff happens that makes you realize your priorities are still all screwed up despite you having already given up on having free time – like when you meet people who’ve had (or are having) a close brush with death – theirs or their families’. That is when you realize you need to stop wasting time on anything else but your family and friends.
That is the corner some people don’t (perhaps ever) turn until it’s too late, and that I may have turned a bit too early in life when my uncle was gone, before I had the maturity to take it all in and just as all the study and career and tech started encroaching on me and taking over my priorities – I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be there, live through that, watch people fight back at whatever is ailing them, serenely or resignedly, but treasuring the moments they had.
If you haven’t yet been through that (even if indirectly), you still have your priorities wrong. And only yesterday I’ve met someone who reminded me of that – a guy who had the peculiar, serene glow of someone who truly knows the value of time, because he’s going through that kind of thing right now. He has a life-threatening condition. He has kids.
And rationalizing through what it must be like for him probably scared me a lot more than anything in the past couple of years.
Ironically, he’s probably going to be my new doctor. I think I’m in excellent hands.
1 Well, until he starts asking for the car keys, of course.