Where has the time gone?
I was sitting on the bench in the front hallway of our house before I took our dog for a walk one night last week. There were several boxes of donations in the hallway ready to be set out on our porch for a pick up the next day.
The boxes in our hallway are a relatively common occurrence, particularly in the spring. What caught my attention, however, was the pink, hand painted sign that was sitting on top of one of the boxes. The sign was designed to hang on the wall and it was adorned with clips like you would see on a clothes line, except these clips were also hand painted and their purpose was to hold artwork.
I had seen that sign hanging in my daughter’s room for probably the last ten years and now it was boxed up and ready to be shipped out, never to be seen again.
My wife and I have always agreed that one of the great joys of parenting is the pride we take in the work and achievements of our children. That pride is uniquely ours because no one will ever assign the level of importance or meaning to what our kids are doing that we alone can perceive and appreciate.
In my mind, my daughter’s artwork is priceless, and of the highest quality, even surpassing the works that you could find in any boutique or high end art gallery.
When I noticed that sign in a box of donations, I couldn’t think of anything else. I sat on that bench for a good, long time and thought about all the artwork I had seen displayed from that sign. I thought about all the enjoyment I had experienced as she explained what she had done to create each piece.
I thought about the years that had passed and the progression I had witnessed in her work and then I thought about the polar opposite feelings that come from the passage of time. On the one hand, the passage of time invariably leads to progress, growth, and the creation of additional, positive experiences. On the other hand, that same passage cannot ever be regained. Once that time is spent, it is gone, just like the sign was about to be.
As poignant and sad as this moment of realization was for me as I sat there staring at the sign, I sure was glad that I had taken the time to enjoy all of that artwork over the years and that I did so when it was most meaningful to my daughter.
I am thankful for those memories especially now that she has grown up so much. Although she is still very interested in art, her interests have changed. As is the case with all kids, as they grow up, their time and how they spend it also changes. Almost inevitably, that means less time for dad.
As much as I am going to miss that sign and the time in our lives that it came to symbolize, I also know there isn’t much I can do about it. What I can do about it, I have already done. I enjoyed those moments, that time and that artwork, as completely as possible. I fully appreciated it for what it was when it was happening and that may be all any of us can ever do when it comes to the passage of time.
Appreciating life’s moments, stopping to admire some art, enjoying time well spent with your kids will not slow time down. It won’t stop your kids from getting older and it sure won’t stop you from aging, but it does go a long way toward ensuring that you get the most out of the time that you have.
Appreciating those moments and living them as they occur, also helps you to build a strong foundation for future moments. Learning to get the most out of your life is just like any other learned behavior. The more you practice, the better at it you will become.
In my own example, I have gotten so much out of those times with my daughter that I cannot wait for the next moment that presents itself, especially now that those moments are fewer and farther between. I will not miss that next opportunity to go to the movies, or review a writing assignment, or to coach her next soccer game because of my awareness of and appreciation for all of the previous moments and opportunities that have already come and gone.
Over the years, I have spent a considerable amount of brainpower trying to figure out how to slow the passage of time with very little to show for it. Even after all of this thought, I have only come up with three tricks to sort of fool myself into believing I have made some progress in this quest.
I never wish time away.
I am never bored.
And, as illustrated above, I make it a point to get the most out of every moment. Time is going to march forward no matter what. I just try to make sure that, as it does, I am not allowing its force to sweep me away with nothing to show for it.
Even still, I sure am going to miss that sign.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.