Gustavson Column: Where does the time go?

Who knows where the time goes?

— Judy Collins

I’m still trying to figure out how it happened. One moment there was this tiny, beautiful, perfect baby in swaddling clothes. Then, in what now feels like the blink of an eye, there is a 42-year-old mother of two making PB&J sandwiches for her school-age children — one of whom is entering junior high school!

It’s true: the older you get, the faster time flies by. This hard reality hits home with a resounding thud this week as we mark the 42nd and 40th birthdays of our two daughters, Sarah and Anna. Perhaps they’ll slam me for divulging their ages, but there’s nothing to apologize for when you enter your fifth decade. It is what it is, and what it is is pretty darn old.

Never mind the fact that the former Joan Giger Walker and I are just around the corner from our eighth decade. It is the reality that both our babies are now in their 40s that has us wondering where the time has gone.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that Sarah was stuffing her long, blonde hair into her baseball cap so she could pitch on an all-boys Little League team? And wasn’t it just the day before yesterday that I chased Anna out the front door and down King Street because she disrespected her mother, only to realize I’d never catch her again? Talk about your milestones.

And now both girls have children of their own, ranging in age from 12 to 1. And, oh my, how the grand-parenting experience does accentuate that accelerating clock. Every time we hug Anna’s youngest, baby George Boardman, who’s just coming up on his 14th month here on Earth, it’s as if four decades have fallen away in a flash.

We had our children at a relatively young age — 25 (Sarah) and 27 (Anna) — and it seemed like we were really winging the parenting thing at the time. I remember coming home from the hospital with Sarah and saying to Joan: “So what do we do next?” Lamaze schooled us well in what to expect leading up to and including birth, but it was the years after that which often had us flummoxed.

By comparison, Anna, who was 38 when George was born, is virtually unflappable, even when her three kids are bouncing off the walls simultaneously. Not until George is on the verge of sticking his tongue in an electrical outlet does she even raise an eyebrow. And that brand of cool, calm oversight is largely attributable to her age, I would argue. Another way of putting it: 40 is the new 25.

Still, I’m having trouble getting my arms around the fact that our little babies are now 42 and 40. Where, indeed, did the time go?

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