Catherine Jackson: EarnestGirl Chronicles


How To Make Peace With The Hourglass

When All The Clichés Are True

thyme and forget-me-nots

I was standing at the sink, distracted by ordinary chores like the dishes, which occupied my hands, and the radio, which occupied my thoughts. In truth, neither was fully engaging my attention because the other things I had to do that day tugged at my mind like a toddler's insistent hand on my hem. The sort of things that require organization and coordination and result in a functioning household, but the doing of which add up to hours of time and nothing more measurable than a good dinner and clean underpants.

Suddenly Alison Moyet — the voice of Yaz, and part of the soundtrack of my much younger self — was speaking about her new album The Minutes. And she was marvelous. And she spoke about midlife, and the way joy is contained within minutes, suspended in pedestrian years... well. I had to stand very very still in my kitchen for a moment, my eyes full of sudden thick tears.

Lately the sands-through-the-hourglass cliché has been ambushing me as I watch the growing-up-so-fast milestones pass and I am seized by remorse for every moment to which I have not paid sufficient attention, suffused with enough love and meaning, made precious or somehow — somehow — managed to slow and commit to memory. Because the thing is? All the clichés are true.

The moment your newborn’s tiny fingers curl like a pink fern around yours and your life is forever re-arranged? That happens.

There will indeed be tears over spilt milk.

You will say that thing your mother said.

Your children really do grow like weeds.

And time? Time flies. 

There is no changing the fundamental truth at the heart of every one of these, nor the daily imperatives of bills and errands, dinner and clean underpants. So how do we make peace with the hourglass? Take Alison’s words to heart and make space for the small joys, the moments that stay suspended in our memories within the rush of years.  

They really are only babies for a short time. This is a good thing and an excruciating thing.  Some days feel like forever, growth spurt afternoons, all night teething, feeling like you cannot console this tiny furious being. You needn’t rush to impose order, they will change it up just as soon as you feel an inkling of control. Nap with them when you can. Hold them lots. Linger after the bath or diaper change or awakening and just watch them absorb their world, your love, the mobile on the ceiling. The transitions happen the moment you look away. The laundry can wait for a little bit. Promise.

Do the same simple things, year after year. Go to the same beach, or berry patch, or walk the same blocks to school. Have a picnic spot in the park that is always the same. These memories settle like layers, for you and for them, No matter how frazzled, or sleep deprived, the repetition makes up for days and months that otherwise become too quickly a blur.

Let them laugh and cry. Let them see you laugh and cry. Model empathy, communication and emotional openness. These are the bridges we have to healing and connection. Sometimes they open between you in the car, in a quiet moment after an ordinary day. Sometimes they are the result of a life-changing event. Either way, pause if you can. Take that beat. We need the bridges. The moments will pass, the way you deal with them is lasting.

Create consistent connections through family traditions. I don't mean the "high holidays" so much as the little rituals like reading at bedtime and pancakes on Saturdays. If everyone knows family movie night is the first Friday every month, it is easier to make it happen. Otherwise, life just hustles us along, homework, social commitments, the daily demands take over and the individual memories get washed away in all the busyness. 

Time is relentless, change inevitable, and they will grow up faster than you can imagine. There is nothing we can do about those things but embrace life and — like the pot of sturdy thyme on my back doorstep with the forget-me-nots that pushed right up through the tangle — make space for all the beautiful unexpected moments.