Children are as time-goofy in the other direction, as well. Just try telling a child he's going to visit his grandma's, but not until next week. Without fail, the child will wake you earlier than normal the next morning, informing you that his bag is all packed for the stay at grandma's, and you need to feed him some toast before both of you leave on the trip. What's a week? Seven days? Is that the same as seven minutes? Oh, longer? More like ten minutes? No? Fifteen? What? How long is that?
The anxiety can be tremendous, for three minutes in time out feels to a three-year-old like a day and a half. Oh, when will the happy moment come when I don't have to sit here on this timeout bench anymore? When is daddy coming home? When is breakfast? Yum. When's lunch? What do you mean I have to wait four hours?!?
Driving trips are the same. Are we there yet? How long is this going to take? What town are we in now? (That last one is my kids' personal favorite, and I name off the towns as we go by... Monroe, Snohomish, Woodinville, Bothell, Bellevue, and so on.)
I could keep on criticizing my kids, but it isn't their fault. They truly cannot grasp the concept of time until their brains develop a bit more. In fact, even as adults we don't grasp time well. My husband, for instance, thinks that time runs more slowly than it actually does (and is therefore nearly always late). A student once tested me with regards to time keeping, and my task was to tell her when I thought 60 seconds had passed. I waited, waited, in silence, stressing out, afraid 60 seconds had long since passed. I finally couldn't take the strain and said, "Now." It turns out 36 seconds had passed. As you might guess, I'm habitually early for everything.
But it isn't just deadlines that have us mixed up. We still so often get caught up in what is coming in the future, so much so that we forget to look around and enjoy what is happening right now. I have done this countless semesters (as have my students), telling myself that once I get my grades all turned in I can relax. Or I say, this semester was awful, but next semester is going to be great. Or, I don't like where I live now, but the next place I live will be perfect. My next job will be ideal. My next house will be exactly what I want. My child's next teacher will be better.
But is anything as spectacular as we imagine, when we bank our soul's happiness on it to that extent?
I just turned in my grades today (yahoo!), but even before this milestone, my life's been pretty good, including the finals to grade and underachieving students to reprimand. My daughter turns nine in two days, and I don't have any expectations about what that will mean for her. I just want to enjoy her now, at this very moment. Right now I am enjoying watching her sleep with the little Christmas tree in her room at this very moment.
I hope she's not dreaming about someday. I hope she's dreaming about now.