Bending Time

My daughter, Izzy, turns 1 year old.

This morning, my little girl turned 1 year old.

It is quite an accomplishment for the kid, for the parents. It is her second most important birthday, I’d imagine. She’s no longer a “baby,” and I already notice that she’s more interested in the world around her than clinging to her dad. In my head, I know that will gradually increase with time, though it doesn’t make it easier to accept. To mark the one year milestone, I could sit here and write all the cliched-but-true revelations that overcome a new parent. The uncoverings are limitless, a book that never ends. Yet, if I were forced to share one insight, it would be this:

The arrival of a child bends a parent’s perception of time. Before Izzy came into this world, it felt like I had all the time in the world. Now, time is extremely finite.

It takes quite a force of nature to bend time. Izzy is that force for me. I now try to adjust my entire schedule around her schedule. Specifically, that means that I have to sleep earlier, and in more regular patterns, even though I don’t need much sleep. I had to learn that six hours of continuous sleep is very different than two stretches of three-hour sleep. I had to learn that I eat dinner around 5:30pm or after 8:30pm. I have to weigh every breakfast meeting or dinner event versus the importance to my career (or helping a friend or colleague) or risk missing a moment that will never return. I now have to complete work and errands as fast as I can when she takes a nap, and I hear the naps decrease over time. I could go on and on, like many of you could, as well.

What this boils down to for me is that the bending of time triggered by Izzy’s arrival has changed me as a person. Yes, having a kid opens parts of your brain and heart that were closed before — and I’ve tried to write about that when Izzy was born, when she hit 3 months, 6 months, and at 9 months. This alone changes me profoundly, of course. As Don Draper confessed about his evolution as a father, in S6E3, “Then one day…it feels like your heart is going to explode.”

For now, it is time that effects me personally most. Time is now decidely finite. I now instinctively translate any task, or any request of me, into the amount of time it will cost me. What if I’m out with family or friends on a weekend and someone suggests having to run a few errands in the dead of a lazy afternoon, where I don’t have any material connection to the events? That’s time I could do something else that needs to be done for work or some other responsibility. Literally, everything boils down to time. What if some old friends invite me to a wedding across the country? I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This isn’t a complaint about having less time, but rather an honest reflection of how I now need to protect and optimize every minute. I don’t have Cable TV. I don’t sleep that much. I’m catching up on work or some other errand I’ve let slip whenever I have down time.

My fixation with time, ultimately, comes down to the realization that not only is my own time finite, but my time with my daughter is finite. Even now, as she becomes more mobile, she grows more interested in exploring everything around her versus clinging to her dad. Occassionally, she’ll run back to me, just briefly, to grab my attention, maybe slap my face or poke at my teeth, and then, as soon as she’s arrived, she’s gone, on to the next thing. It’s as if she needs to recharge her batteries for a second, and when she’s charged up with enough energy, she’s off on her own. I know those sessions between charges will only increase as time unfolds, as she gets older. Like any battery, I too have only so many charge cycles.

In this first year as a dad, it is even hard for me, as someone who usually writes without effort, to convey the emotion associated with the currents of energy we share. I see flashes of my old self in her face. She reminds me what it’s like to interact in the world with open eyes. I have never felt as close to anyone before. When I confessed this to my wife, she joked, “What about me?” Sorry, my wife is fantastic, but not even close ;-) With my daughter, it is a connection so deep, full of electricity that bends time around me, so profoundly indescribable, that every decision around how I spend my time provides me with a reward in the form of more time with her. I’ll end Izzy’s first year with a quote a line about acting (and it applies to being a parent) from Forest Whitaker’s 2007 “Best Actor” Oscar acceptance speech: “Because acting for me is about believing in that connection and it’s a connection so strong, it’s a connection so deep, that we feel it. And through our combined belief, we can create a new reality.