by Cody J. Elms
Four years in the making, and I still am learning.
As I approach my son’s fourth birthday, I can’t help but think about the old adage of how time flies. However, I feel like flies is an understatement these days. More like time moves at the rate of the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs. If you’re not a Star Wars fan, that is really really fast!
Nevertheless, while viewing the ever so dangerous section of Memories on Facebook the other day, I was pleasantly surprised to see a video of when my son still had a solid collection of binkies. He would fire these binkies out of his mouth one-by-one over Grandma’s couch, and then run back to gather them up and do it all over again. He shot them out like Nerf darts. Ironically, for his birthday this year, we will be having a Nerf Battle Party. New projectile, new launcher, same maniacal laughter.
The upcoming foam dart assault aside, the video brought forth a realization of how odd time seems to work when raising a child. Children in this country are extremely blessed with the benefit of innocence. From binkies to Nerf guns, they are, in most cases, able to grow up to the age of adolescence without having anything to worry or stress about beyond where a lost toy is or why we aren’t allowed to watch PJ Masks until 11 o’clock at night. Most may hear bits and pieces of current headlines, political chatter, or sporting events, but ultimately, they lack the real capacity or responsibility to comprehend the affects that any of those things have on the day-to-day lives of people.
Couple this with the fact that my son has literally no concept of time and you have the perfect definition of living one’s best life. He understands tomorrow, unless he takes a nap, and then that even becomes a little dicey. His basic understanding comes down to whether it is light or dark outside. In a way, I envy him. A day, a week, or a month means nothing to him. He’s just living life. An innocent, worry free life. If he has a bad day, it isn’t a bad day, it’s just a bad time that magically goes away after he wakes up. Us, however, we tend to let bad days bleed into one another and quickly they become bad weeks, and more often than we’d like to openly admit, this accumulates so much that we chalk it up to a bad year and come January assume the new year will be different.
But is it ever truly different?
It is an optimistic approach we have gotten into the habit of having, but the actuality is that if we don’t change how we view one day, how could we possible expect to change how we handle an entire year?
No one can predict the future with detailed accuracy, but some aspects are always true. You will always face adversity. You will always encounter individuals who do not have your best interest in mind. You will always struggle at some point, whether it be financially, physically, mentally, or socially. The who, what, when, where, and why of the future is not as important as identifying, or better yet admitting, that there will be more bad days ahead.
Where we can learn from our children, is by not allowing a bad day to create a bad week, month, year, or lifetime. It is vastly more difficult for us, as we have responsibilities well beyond that of a child, but if we view each day in isolation, as a singular entity, as often as possible, the task does not seem to be nearly as daunting.
I think it is important to reflect frequently and not avoid the negative parts of your day. So many components that make up our days can be better dealt with or corrected by us personally, yet we far to regularly revert directly to feeling helpless or encompassing the role of the victim. Not every day has or will be great, but there is great in every day if you are looking for it. When you find those moments, remember them. They are your hold points of the past. Even if time for adults moves at a rapid pace, if we have these points, we have the ability to slow it down, even briefly to appreciate what has come and gone. My son doesn’t remember whining or crying last week, but he does remember that game we played, or that book we read. He is doing what adults struggle to do without even trying. Day by day, positive moment by positive moment, and before you know it, you’ll have a good year. Hell, maybe even a great one!
So, for me, the last four years has flown by yet these frozen moments have kept me feeling like my own Doomsday clock was just moved seconds from midnight. Since my son came into this world, I left one job for a new job and somewhere in there stopped writing for a local newspaper. I became an uncle for the eighth time, saw a couple women come and go, gained a little weight, lost a little hair, socialized a bit more, became a Mason, and learned how insanely uncomfortable turnout gear is to wear. I had a very bad year, followed by a not so bad year, and then a couple of pretty good ones. I’ve seen people live longer than you’d expect, and for that I am thankful that the world got to enjoy them a little bit more, but I have also seen some pass away far too soon, and for that I am grateful for my own health and continued opportunities.
Four years may feel like four minutes ago, but at times it feels like forever ago. It just depends on the days I think back on as I mentally travel through time to January 29th, 2016. So, for his fourth birthday, I only wish for him to have a good day. Which I know he will, because he has unknowingly taught me, happiness isn’t defined by time, but your approach each day can define your time on earth.