Children are a gift from the Lord. Being a parent is an incredible privilege. Having a family is a remarkable blessing. We know these truths, right?
Why, then, are we tired and discouraged so much? Why do we have to scrape ourselves off the floor, take our vitamins, drink lots of water, and sometimes seek respite in the bathroom with a magazine?
Because being a parent is hard work.
There's a lot of parenting advice available, and much of centers around an ancient Latin phrase that entered contemporary consciousness on the heels of the Academy award-winning film Dead Poet Society. The phrase is carpe diem, and we usually understand it to mean "seize the day." In other words, take advantage of the moment. Make the most of each day. Grab every opportunity available. And be sure to savor each moment while you're at it.
But deep in your heart, you know that some moments aren't worth savoring. Some days you can't seize; sometimes you only survive.
So I'd like to suggest a different Latin phrase as a guiding light for parents. Forget carpe diem, but remember: tempus fugit.
Tempus fugit. Time flies.
Sounds corny, doesn't it? I used to think so. Then one day I was talking with an older, wiser man, who happened to be an accounting professor. As we discussed the fact that time seemed to go faster as we age, he offered an explanation for that phenomenon. He explained that as we get older, our total lives consist of more and more days. With every day that passes, each day is a smaller percentage of the total.
I think he was really on to something there.
You know how four-year-olds feel that it takes forever to get from Thanksgiving to Christmas? It's because one month is a huge chunk of time from their perspective. That one month is a large percentage of their total lives, so time seems to limp along. As they get older, the month becomes a smaller and smaller fraction of the totality of their lives, so time seems to move faster.
I'm about to turn 50 years old, and I'm here to tell you: time flies.
Why does that matter? Why should parents care?
Yes, it's true: parents need to know that time with their precious children is limited, and that each age and stage is to be cherished.
Sure, when your little one crawls into your lap and asks you to read a story, you cherish the moment.
When your three-year-old dances around the Christmas tree, you cherish the moment.
When your five-year-old stars in the end-of-school play, you cherish the moment.
When your third grader wonders how to help a friend who's feeling down, you cherish the moment.
But tempus fugit. Time flies. And your little ones become big ones awfully fast.
Honestly, though, some days don't consist of beautiful moments at all.
So what about the time when your infant spits up all over you several times a day and won't sleep at night? When you're so sleep-deprived that you can't see straight?
What about the time when all your children have a stomach virus at the same time? When you wish you had two washers and two dryers just to keep up with number of dirty sheets?
What about the time when your precious angel turns into a demon on the playground and you get called to the principal's office? When you feel the burden of molding his character crushing your shoulders?
What about the time when your toddler tries to flush your bottle of perfume down the toilet or your two-year-old floods the bathroom or your three-year-old swallows a bunch of medication and has to be rushed to the hospital? What about the time when your four-year-old has pneumonia or your five-year-old gets second-degree burns or your eight-year-old has a bloody scooter accident? What about the time when your ten-year-old has appendicitis or your fourteen-year-old has open-heart surgery or your nineteen year old has emergency surgery the week of Thanksgiving?
What about those times? Do you seize those days? Do you cherish those moments?
I don't think so. In those moments, you just do your best. Some days you hang on by the skin of your teeth. Some days you don't hang on at all; instead, you let go and crash to the floor.
But time still flies. Even the worst days come to an end.
And before you know it, your precious-awful-wonderful-terrible-delightful-maddening children will be all. grown. up.
From where I'm standing now, I can give this one little nugget of parenting advice: forget about seizing every day. Let go of the burden to be the perfect parent. God always knew you weren't perfect, even before He gave you a child. But that's okay. He's perfect, and there's nothing that can happen in your parenting journey that His grace won't cover.
Carpe diem? Not so much. But tempus fugit? Yes, it does. You can count on it.