Mother Muse: Of First Birthdays...

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"Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration."
- Kahlil Gibran

Have you begun to notice how fast it all goes? Have you noticed that children have a way of marking time that is like nothing else? Have you noticed how funny time is...how unpredictable it can be...how unreliable this once steadfast and dependable instrument of measurement becomes after you give birth?

The clock drags through pregnancy. It creeps and crawls through the period of total helplessness when you are constantly occupied by newborn needs. It actually comes to a complete stand still on long, sleep-deprived mornings.

And then time seems to fast-forward to solid food, scurries on to finger foods, and races ahead to first steps. How does it happen that one morning you look up at the calendar and realize that your baby is almost one and it's time to plan a party?

Since becoming a parent, my grasp on the concept of time has faltered. No longer do I refer to mankind's perpetual grounding in traditional terms, but instead speak in code as I try to decipher the calendar and make sense of major life happenings. For instance, I used to refer to the almanac of our lives in the conventional sense. Upon meeting someone new, I would describe myself with a vocabulary that my acquaintance was privy to: I graduated from high school eleven years ago. I started my first teaching job in the fall of 2001. Jake and I married in December of the following year. The summer of 2003 was great; we took a break from school and enjoyed three months of pleasure and relaxation. Such explanation of time is clear, exact, and easy to follow.

But now, after having two children who take up a very large part of my life, I have altered the way I speak and understand time and it consists of a vocabulary foreign to most: We moved to a new apartment in a new neighborhood when Oliver was nine months old. (Translation: February, 2005.) My niece was born when Oliver was just over two and I was four months pregnant with Eli. (Translation: July, 2006.) We moved into our house when Eli was nine months. (Translation: September, 2007.) Such jargon is clear only to those who live such events along side me. Time really is relative.

Is this then why year to year they change so much and we so little? If I look back at a picture from one year ago I look pretty much the same, except for maybe one less wrinkle and a different hairstyle.

However, a photograph of Eli from one year ago will reveal that my baby has more than doubled in size -- both in height and weight. He has more hair, more teeth, and more personality. The birthday boy has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past twelve months. Children develop rapidly, zooming ahead to their full potential, while we observe from a set of awestruck eyes much slower to learn and slower to change. It's difficult to understand and articulate such things.

Time has indeed transformed since becoming a parent. Here I sit, my youngest son's first birthday was two days ago; the New Year begins in three. I can't help but anticipate the following months with the same bittersweet outlook I find taking over myself at the brink of each new year.

I think back to last year and realize there are things left unaccomplished, though at the same time I look forward to the adventure that I know awaits. I understand myself well enough to recognize that regardless of what this year brings, 2008 will be the year that Oliver turns four and Eli is one, one and a half, and eventually, two. In my mind, of course, Jake and I will not age at all.

"Time has been transformed, and we have changed," says Kahlil Gibran. It's bewildering. It's exhilarating. It's actually an awful lot like the language one might use to describe the very act of parenting.