Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Time Marches On

Posted By on July 1, 2009

Time marches on
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

For all us, whether or not we are parents, children’s growth is marker of time. Everyone has had the experience of being shocked by the age, or size, of a child. It could be a neighbor, or a friend’s child, but suddenly you find yourself saying those dreaded words from your own childhood, “Wow, have you grown up! How old are you now?”

I’ve even heard my ten year old say these words to a five year old child. He remembers vividly when that child was born, who is now standing there demanding a piggy-back ride. As I write these very words, the ten year old child I just mentioned is planning for his birthday party, his eleventh birthday party. Even he says, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m going to eleven!”

He stands nearly 6 inches taller than me now (some of you who know me may be muttering, “Well…that’s not so hard,” since I am only 4’10”, but he towers over most 13 year olds). He leans his elbow on my shoulder, and bends way down to kiss me. Please note: he still kisses me, hello and good-bye, in public and before bed. I once had a dream when he was a small baby: I was putting something in the trunk of my car when this tall brown boy leaned in over my head to help me. I remember in the dream thinking, “Oh, it’s you, my son, that’s who you will be.” I woke up and here we are.

I remember, somewhere in my late 20s, realizing that I might never have it all together, so that if I wanted to become a parent, I would likely be an imperfect one. However, I really had no idea how bad it could get. I just realized the other day that my children may go off to college before I paint the bedroom. The neat creative scrapbook of their childhood is a large messy box of mementos and intentions. If time is marching on, where is it marching to?

I’m not sure how your summer went, but mine consisted of three things: making a list of the activities I wanted to do with the children, putting away the winter gloves about mid-August, and buying school supplies. Boom, another summer of their childhood gone! I remember summer when I was a child as something that went on forever. Summer mornings were long and lazy, with the blue skies and diffused light in my window. My kids say their summers feel that way to them, endless, as if it is really years, not just weeks. I’m relieved that it’s just my ageing body that is in fast forward, and their lives remain everlasting.

I picked up my son at a friends house the other day. As I waited for them to find him (a curious thing in itself), I noticed a piece of paper on their bulletin board, poking out from under other papers. It was a list, with each child’s name, and each parents’ also, and under the name, bulleted, were the things they wanted to do over the summer. It was impressive, and looked a lot like the list I have on my bulletin board. It included things like gardening, going to the library, hiking, picking strawberries, fishing, archery, and bowling. I am generally a kind and compassionate person, but I found myself having a very unkind thought, “I hope you didn’t do any of things on your list either, nah-nah.”

My youngest son just started first grade. My older son is studying for his bar mitzvah. My partner turned 50 this year; my grandfather with whom I grew up with was born not in the last century, but the one before that.

I was on the phone earlier today with a woman interviewing me for an article in the Village Voice. I thought she wanted my expertise on gay parenting, but she really just wanted to know about my personal history of becoming a parent. She kept asking me questions about “when” I first decided to have children, or “what year I first began trying to get pregnant.” As kindly as I could I said, “I tried to get pregnant for over 10 years, and my oldest son will be eleven; we are talking about things that happened nearly a ¼-century ago; I just don’t remember all the details.” “Oh,” she said, with a voice inflection suggesting she was likely still in diapers on that unknown day in prehistory when I decided to be parent.

I recently became reacquainted with an old friend. I knew she had a son a few years older than mine. I said to her, “Wow, your boy must be post-bar mitzvah already.” She said, “He has his own apartment.” As in: he’s all grown up. Time, indeed, surely marches on.