The tide will sound and the waves will pound
Kids really keep you honest about how much time has gone by. Like when a friend of yours just had a baby and you finally get around to sending a baby gift and then one day out of the blue they send a picture from the first day of kindergarten, you say, “Wow, she’s already five” but five years haven’t passed in your own life.
Or when you have cousins that are teenagers and you know they’re not your age but you sort of feel in the same range. Their parents are your aunt and uncle and you have the same grandparents so you’re all sort of the kids but then they tell you most of their teachers, and some of their friends’ parents, are younger than you are.
I remember even back when I was substitute teaching at Middle School 54. I was two years out of college. The students knew I was younger than other teachers, but at their age the difference was pretty immaterial. I remember them coming up to me after class one day and saying, “I don’t get it. What do you do on weekends?” At that time I was out on weekends, partying and drinking and going to see music shows and playing in a band. So I thought I was you know I guess young and cool or whatever but to them it was just this suburban void of being a grown-up, like do you take care of your garden or go shopping at Costco’s or how do you spend your time? So I knew to them I was part of that far off and mysterious world of adults.
What was also strange was that the parents of the teachers I tutored would always talk to me like I was their peer, ask me for guidance about what to do about their kid. I felt like telling them they must have me confused with someone else, that they were the adults in the equation and they should just tell me what they want to do and I'd do it.
We've all noticed how around the age of 30, when you get past that, it all sort of blends together. Those distinctions of a few years or even ten or twenty are not that meaningful. Even as far as high school, two years was unfathomably distant -- the difference between an awkward, wobbly freshman and untouchably sophisticated junior wearing a red hat and denim cut-offs. In some instances those old habits and patterns die hard. Like I can’t get over that Alex is the same age as my sister. To me he’s younger, my age, and still needs advice on things like what kind of credit card to get or what to wear to a job interview.
And then of course there is seeing kids now and remarking on how tall they are or grown-up they look and then realizing you're one of those people making prosaic comments about how tall some kid is or how much older he looks. And you remember adults exclaiming when they saw you, giving you a hug as you came back from the beach on the 4th of July and saying, "How did you get so tall?" or "How did you get to be such a big kid?" You'd think, what an odd question, these people don't really have a good grasp of time, and they don't.