Any minute now, my wife Jill and my son Jack will be landing in Philadelphia, then driving about an hour to a place called Downington.
One of my wife’s sisters and her family lives there and is having a surprise birthday party weekend; unless this blog post spoils the surprise. Awkward…
I will pick them up again on Wednesday from the airport. Until then, it’s just me here.
It’s only been a few hours but it already feels like Chernobyl.
Normally if I’m sitting in my living room writing a blog post on a Saturday afternoon, hearing nothing but silence, it means that any second Jack will be waking up from his token 40 minute Saturday afternoon nap.
Well, it’s been more than 40 minutes now.
I thought I heard him cry a minute ago but it was just a poodle in the townhouse next to us.
This is my “dad sabbatical.” It’s pretty weird so far.
Granted, I am happy that my wife will get to enjoy these next several days with her sisters she rarely gets to see; no thanks to scientists who have yet failed to invent a practical teleportation device, despite us all living a dozen years past the year 2000.
(No flying cars or hover-boards yet, either. Back To Future Part II made it very clear what life is going to be like in the year 2015. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do!)
Her side of the family will get to meet Jack the Toddler; as opposed to Jack the Infant, who they met a year ago when we all met up in Sacramento where they are all originally from.
It worked out better for me to stay here in Nashville this time around.
(Especially if the rumor is true that we may both need to use a couple vacation days next month to make an appearance on a morning talk show on NBC. Oh well, I probably just now jinxed that for us. Now it won’t happen. Great.)
You would think I would appreciate this “time to purposely do nothing” more than I do. But I’m still in culture shock right now.
Sure, I miss them both tremendously. Right now I feel emotionally exactly what I’m supposed to.
But also, I feel guilty.
For nearly 2 years I have constantly been a dad. No pause button. And for 4 years, I’ve been a husband. No more than just a few nights apart due to the occasional business trip.
And now for half a week, I will have no real responsibilities as a husband or a dad. Yeah, it just feels wrong.
Okay, time to go see Batman. Because that’s what a 31 year-old dad on sabbatical evidently is supposed to do with his free time.
Yes, it’s a parenting cliche. But it’s so true and therefore I must confront it:
“They grow up so fast.”
We live in the age of Instagramming. Granted, I’m not actually cool enough to have a smart phone to share a vintage photo version of what my kid just did any given moment of his waking hours.
But I see Instagrams all the time on Facebook. Some being unintentionally ironic and uncreative- like a picture of a Starbucks cup. Others, however, are photos of something a bit more relevant and important in life.
Like our kids.
And I think that’s a pretty symbolic concept. Prepare for me to get deep here.
If you’re like me, you spend the majority of your time doing the things you don’t want to, like driving to and from work, being at work, cleaning dishes, etc.
A very small percentage of my life is actually spent doing what I really want to do; which is spending time with my wife and son.
So I constantly carry my camera around in an effort to capture every warm, fuzzy moment I can. Because as I’ve written, these are the longest years and the shortest days of my life; being a parent, that is.
It’s my attempt to magnify the best parts of my life and be able to share them with everyone who cares.
Consider this: We are constantly traveling through time and space.
My best Internet research tells me that since the Earth is always spinning, we are constantly moving at 1,040 miles per hour. (Correct me if I’m wrong on that.)
Good thing for gravity.
We are forced to travel forward into time while simultaneously stuck in physical locations we don’t necessarily want to be and participating in events we’d rather not.
There is no such thing as the present. Once we think, “this is now,” it’s no longer now. It’s back then.
So anytime we can make a positive memory into one that is eternal, indestructible, and virtually omnipresent, why wouldn’t we?
So why is Instagram so cool? It automatically “retro-izes” events that just happened, dressing them up like a Dharma Initiative Polaroid in order to direct-deposit the memory into the classic “good times” folder in our brains.
That’s basically what deja vu is- when our brains mistakenly file a current memory as a classic one.
Now back to the beginning: “They grow up so fast.”
We can’t stop it. We can barely detect the tiny changes in our children that happen overnight. We want to hold on to “this version” of our kids forever.
The next best thing we have to pressing the pause button on their current cuteness is to take a picture and therefore speak a thousand words.
That is how we travel back in time to places we’d rather be.