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Time is a demanding mistress
“Father Time” may be the classic image, but I prefer to think of Time as a woman. Time has always been a demanding mistress. Like every “other woman” in story, she demands attention. She is always in the background, threatening to blow things up if our relationship is not on her terms. She’s always watching. Unrelenting. But recently, I found a new relationship with Time. One that I own.
Time first made her presence known in the military. Then, Time was mechanical and precise. She was always to be respected. The Navy declared “Time, tide, and formation wait for no man.” Time smirked, “Damn right I’m first.”
At the Naval Academy, we had respect for Time drilled into our heads. “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is dead.” Early morning formations, classes, and drills all started and ended with a precision that demanded respect. Time demanded the same obedience outside of Annapolis. Flights took off within 15 seconds of schedule. They hit the target within five seconds. You had three seconds of leeway for landing. Time was precise. If she wasn’t, the consequences were grave. We all respected and obeyed time.
Outside of the military, Time was less demanding. More confident even. No one held to the same precision which we had in her youth. Meetings started 10 minutes late. They ran over five minutes. Those minutes would add up over the course of the day. She might not have demanded precision, but she refused to be ignored. Endless meetings and coffee chats filled the day. If we wanted to accomplish anything, we’d make Time blocks. Uninterrupted time with Time. She thrived off those. Time was always present, but rarely savored. Still, she demanded her pound of flesh.
Later, Time learned to co-parent with us. The routine that Time offered has become indispensable. We’ve learned to live our lives with schedules drawn for our son, timers for everything – brushing teeth, yep; taking a bath, check; getting dressed, you guessed it – and a plan for every day. We’re masters at juggling his needs with our schedule. We might not keep the same precision that Time demanded in her youth, but we’re not far off. As someone who treasured unplanned adventures, I’ve been challenged co-parenting with Time. Yet she holds out more unknown. Will Time help our son learn to be himself, or will the additional challenges of teenage hormones and adult responsibilities only make things worse? Time dangles those fears in front of us, reminding us she’s never far away.
We can tell when the routine isn’t helping because our son is riddled with anxiety. He can’t focus, never sleeps, and rarely lets us relax either. A change in routine leads to a downward spiral of nerves, tears, anger, and shame. It’s not a pretty sight for any of us. Especially Time, hiding in the corner. She may be demanding, but she prefers to live in the shadows like the archetypal mistress she is.
My son and I recently went camping for a few days. We arrived at the campground with no plans and nothing scheduled. Time didn’t come with us. Without a watch or a clock, we both were simply present. I watched as his shoulders came off their usual perch. His breathing slowed down. His smile replaced the never-ending activity in his eyes. And with it, I relaxed too. We slept when we were tired, usually in rhythm with the sun. We ate when we were hungry, whatever time that was. We played and read and goofed off, with no schedule to be found. He was so alive, so present, and so funny. I had missed that smile. And in the darkness of the night, once the birds stopped chirping and I was alone with his breathing, I noticed how much more comfortable I felt as his dad. I stole back my relationship.
Time may be important, but like all mistresses, she must eventually be let go. When I did, I realized how much of the story of my son’s disabilities is really self-imposed. Does that mean we’ll never keep another schedule again? Not if we want him to get to school, go on vacation, or even talk with his support team. Not if we want date nights and dinner reservations. Time is still present in our lives. But I would also like to try more days without her. No clocks, alarms, or schedules. No more wondering how long it’s been since he went outside or he last ate. Just all of us being.
So to my longtime mistress, I’m taking over the relationship. But please stick around long enough to make sure this goes out on time.
Take control over Time, and never miss a post in the process.