You are three years old and obsessed with wrestling.
Not the ridiculousness on television. No, you are all about actually wrestling. Jumping off couches. Getting body slammed into cushions on the floor. Piledrivers. Headlocks. Your energy is endless. Your full body smiles, your shouts, and squeals of delight feed my soul in a very specific way that nothing else ever will. I look down for a second and years have passed. I lost track of time.
You are 18 years old and are preparing to start your freshman year in college.
You are excited, nervous, and eager. We spend the afternoon in my least favorite place in the world: downtown Nashville. Just the two of us. We’re there for an album release party and concert by one of our favorite bands. I can promise you with everything I have, I would not do this for anyone but the handful of precious souls who live under my roof. The band, NEEDTOBREATHE, rocks. My time with you rocks even more. Before I know it, you are a junior in college and planning a wedding. I lost track of time.
You are 13 years old, and live and breathe Star Wars.
Your mother and I surprise you with a trip to the local symphony to hear the iconic music of Star Wars played live by a very talented group of musicians. I tried to memorize your face, the sheer joy written in your eyes, while the music played. I get glimpses of it from time to time, but my memory is too weak a thing to remember it in the detail it deserves.
Watching you “conduct” along with the music, eyes wide, smile stretching across your face, will forever be one of my favorite things. This was less than a year ago, but it fades a little each day. I’ll hang on to it as long as I can yet in spite of my efforts, I will lose track of time.
You are 9, 8, and 4. I can barely keep up with the three of you.
You are ninjas, warriors, and soldiers, costumes and accessories for each. You jump, slide, roll, kick, punch, and run with every ounce of energy you possess. Our furniture takes a beating, as do your mother and I. You are still small enough that I can carry you all up and down our stairs in some sort of four-headed, eight-armed monstrosity. You make me feel like the biggest, strongest, and coolest man in the world. I look away for a second and two of you are grown men and the other is quickly headed that way as well. I lost track of time.
You are a toddler, laughing, hugging, getting into all sorts of pleasant mischief. I lose track of time and you are moving into your college dorm room. You are a good-natured, spunky little kid. I lost track of time, and you are a pensive, thoughtful, and intelligent young man. You are playing your first 5th and 6th grade soccer match. I lose track of time, and you step on the field for the final match of your high school career. These past 20 plus years happen all at once yet stretch out into eternity.
How do we respond when we “lose track of time”?
Sons, each of you, all three, are unique and precious. You are gifts beyond what my meager words could ever hope to describe. This is not a lament, though it might feel that way. Admittedly, there is sadness and there have been tears, as time’s inescapable forward motion catches us all. We are all aware of how finite it all is, how transitory every stage of life can feel.
Yes, I feel the loss of each stage in your life. I look back and if I let myself, I long to return. It’s a selfish impulse and I reject it as quickly as I can, but it would be dishonest of me to deny it. Yet this is not a lament. It’s a bittersweet reflection and a hopeful challenge.
Time moves on. We know this in our very bones. We cannot stop it. Children are meant to grow, to mature, and to leave the home. It is good and right. As a parent, I experience this good and necessary thing with a dizzying sense of contradiction.
I am happy and sad. Excited and nervous. Thrilled and heartbroken. When I allow myself the time and space to process all of it, I am virtually pummeled with all of these emotions. It can be disorienting and confusing, to say the least. But thinking about it is beneficial. It helps me focus on each stage and each moment with a little more clarity. If I can lose track of time more purposefully, I can find the moments of joy all the better.
I did my best to cherish each stage. To truly remember. To truly appreciate. I have not always been as successful as I would like. Life gets in the way. Outside noise clouds my vision and I lose track of time. I am eternally grateful that each stage has been a blessing, some more than others. I rejoice to see you each moving forward, taking determined steps, and growing in all the important ways. Throughout my life, I have failed in innumerable ways. I count it a joy that in this, my inadequacies have been bolstered by your mother’s strengths. It is one of my great joys in life to be your father.
I will lose track of time. That is inevitable. I hope that with reflection and recognition, I will do it for the right reasons. I want to “live in the moment” as much as that is possible. I want to experience each stage as the blessing it is. A gift from the giver of all good things. When I lose track of time, I want it to be because I was so wrapped up in that specific season, that time slipped away from me. When I lose track of time, I want it to be because I was so focused on the things that matter most, everything else faded into the background.
Here’s to losing track of time.