Friday, May 25, 2012

Relax, You're on Tween Time

Imagine you're saying "Goodbye" to the person you love as they leave you forever. You're standing on the runway, while the plane's propellers start to spin. It's foggy, dawn is just breaking and you're both wearing classic Burberry trench coats and fedoras. Very Casablanca. The nice French gendarme warns you that the plane is leaving in two minutes. You have two minutes.

Now, think about sitting in a dentist's chair. The maniacal-looking man in the white coat leans forward with a piece of machinery that looks like nothing so much as a torture device from the series 24. "Relax," he tells you. He's going to drill, he tells you. He's going to drill for the next two minutes. You have two minutes.

Just how relative is time?

As the mother of a fourteen-year old, I am here to tell you that time is completely, utterly, totally subjective. It can fly by when you want it to linger. It can stand stock still when you need it to move along. And, time can mean very different things to different people. Even people with, purportedly, the same DNA.

My daughter, like most of her peers, doesn't wear a watch. Oh, she owns plenty of them, but she doesn't wear them. Even if she needed or cared to know the time (which, trust me, she doesn't seem to), she always has her iPhone with her. Apparently, wearing a watch brands you as someone who actually lived before smart phones ran our entire lives.

But, to wear or not to wear a watch isn't really the question. My daughter and I, regardless of what is on our wrists, are living in separate parallel universes in which time itself is flexible. A minute for me may be an hour for her and vice versa.

When I ask my daughter to do something — clean her room, put away a dirty dish, bring her laundry up, start her homework — she invariably says "Uh-huh." (Translation: "Yeah, yeah.") And yet, she doesn't move. If I have been naive enough to leave her after making my request, I can pretty much guarantee that she'll do what I asked ... um ... never. Meanwhile, if I stay and stare at her pointedly or add the simple syllable "Now," I get all sorts of attitude.

Hello!?!? I wouldn't be such a nagging nag if she didn't make me nag by not doing what I need her to do without my nagging! Sheesh!

The same holds true if I want her to stop doing something. "Put the phone down." "Turn off your computer." "Put the  cookies back; dinner's almost ready." I get the same semblance of compliance: "Uh-huh." But she moves at her own sweet pace and actually ceases and desists when she's good and ready. Which is ... um ... never. Unless, again, I become the shrill monster-mother-from-the-black-lagoon that she already knows me to be. (Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!)

Then, of course, the ultimate response to either of these (and myriad other) scenarios is "All right, all right. I'm doing it. Calm down already." 

Would you like to see a mother blow her proverbial top? Stick around.

Time really stands still when my daughter stops at Starbucks after school. It also stands still when I pick her up at the stable. Well, not really, I guess. But, while the seconds and minutes (and hours unless I stop the insanity) tick by, my daughter doesn't seem to notice. I, on the other hand, am expected to put myself into some sort of sci-fi suspended animation until she's ready to leave.

These things drive me crazy. But the truth is, no matter how you measure it, time is flying by too fast. My daughter is about to leave middle school. She is growing up and growing away from me more and more every day. When I am tempted to rush her ("We are so late, turn off the TV right NOW!"), I should stop myself. There will come a time, I know, when I will miss everything about her. Even her procrastination, her attitude and her otherworldly sense of time.

It's like that old Jim Croce song: "If I could put time in a bottle." And, if I could, I probably wouldn't spend it nagging.


  1. This is so timely! My husband and I were talking about this idea this morning while out to breakfast, sans children. He is her step-father, does not have his own children (we married when he was 42) and does not for the life of him comprehend why sometimes (only about 2% of the time, admittedly!) I allow her to be non-compliant with doing things "right now" or even why I do things for her that she could just as easily do for herself, like pick up her socks from the living room floor for the 100th time. I told him it is because she is growing up and some day, some day very very soon, I know that (like her 16 year old brother) she will not require my services any more. I get sad about it, missing the "dependent baby" of my little girl. But time is running, fast or slow, it's going on whether I want it to or not. And, for me at least, doing a few things for her now is my way of holding on to those fleeting moments. Because very soon, she'll have left home and will be picking her own socks up off a living room floor and, if there is justice in the universe, also picking up HER daughter's socks!

  2. Looking forward to reading more!

    Daisy @