by David DeWitt
If there is one thing children are on earth to do it’s to continuously challenge our concept of time. After all, it isn’t natural this business of numbering the months, days, hours, and minutes. Finn’s natural tendency is to explore the moment until it has reached it’s natural end before moving on to the next thing.
“We’re late!” I kept saying one recent morning on the way out the door. “Please get your boots on!”
“Ok, as soon as I shoot the bear,” he said, running back inside to fire his lego missile one last time.
|Finn and his friend enjoy the present moment. Photo by David
I’m past giving him the speech about why you wouldn’t want to shoot a bear because he always responds, “It’s just pretend Dadoo.”
Instead I said, “Do you know what late means?” “No, what?” he said. “It means we’re supposed to be somewhere else right now,” I said. “But I have to do this now,” he said randomly picking up a stick to delay getting in the car a few more seconds.
I myself have lateness in my bones. (Just ask my editor.) Also being a night owl has never helped the situation much. From my earliest memories, my dear mother often wrangled my other five siblings into the car only to find me still in my pajamas. When we had to get up at 4:30am to milk cows my oldest brother once pulled my mattress off the bed and threw it down the stairs to keep me from crawling back in. And in high school my dad employed the torturous device of uncovering my feet and slowly pulling me off the bed. I was still late most of the time and sometimes ended up walking to school. Uphill both ways.
I had hoped Finn would get Erin’s prompt and early gene, but the signs are looking otherwise. He likes to take his time. Start a few minutes earlier and he’ll take a little more time. He’s the embodiment of “there’s no time like the present.”
When we received a couple of Christmas cards the other day he wanted me to read them out loud. One said, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” “What is a new year?” he said. I made a feeble attempt at naming all the months. “But is it new?” he interrupted. I thought about it. “Not really,” I said. “Is it right now?” he said. “No,” I said. Then he abruptly changed the subject. If it isn’t now, it must not be important.
If we weren’t already caught up in the construct of time that would be easier to remember. But since I’m not a zen master or a monk I’ve got the next best thing, a little being who naturally brings me back to the now. As long as I pay attention, which is a task in itself. And if we pay attention together maybe we’ll fully appreciate the moment, learn what it has to teach us, then get in the car so we won’t be late.
David DeWitt is a painter, writer, and dad. He lives in Ulster County with his wife Erin and three year old son, Finn. To read David’s blog on art and fatherhood, visit daviddewitt.com.