The Responsible Time-Traveler
After having kids, time seemed to have a different elasticity. Being a parent can make time seem unbearably long, particularly in the sleepless hours of the newborn phase and as the audience to a stuttered story told so slowly that your most important task is to not zone out. But time also seemed to jump. I've never time-traveled as much as I have since I've had kids.
My son's sick day takes me back to the sick days of my childhood. The oddity of napping on the living room couch, with "The Price is Right" in the background. The extra care and attention, even if just more water and juice cups littered my side table or how I was allowed to stay in pajamas all day. The cloyingly sweet and sometimes grainy medicine — although nothing seems to be banana flavored anymore. Thank goodness.
It's when you're now the parent at the school's book fair, where a pop-up store has sprung up for your children to browse gravely like small adults staring at the New York Times bestseller list. But then, time is still somewhat circular when they pick out the graphic novel version of the same books you read as a child. It turns out that "The Baby-Sitters Club" books are still a thing, and the personalities are still set. Claudia is still the artist; Stacy still has diabetes. That's handy.
I travel back to my own big decisions of circling the books I wanted in the book fair handout, with my mom then marking down her firm checkmarks on the order form and studiously filling out a check. In a few weeks, a package sat on my desk with the books ordered, with the coveted smell of newness and smooth, glossy covers that you could stroke before you went home for the day and devoured them. Metaphorically.
I recently heard the phrase, "be in the moment like you've traveled from the future to spend one more minute in your present." But the more I think about it, the more it feels like my past likes to tag along and soak in the differences between then and now.
There's a desire to romanticize your past, that it was better and easier, but trying to tug that past into your present — and into the future of those who never experienced it — seems selfish. It's strange hearing the arguments on retaining the struggles of the past for younger generations, a glorification of suffering perpetuated by those who could stop it. We could act on and change many things, but it seems unlikely that we will be good stewards of our time.
We continue the growth of our economies to the detriment of our mental health in the short term and the planet's health in the long term. We saunter toward fixes for climate change at the slowest pace. We continue to fight among ourselves exactly like those with power and money want us to, closing ourselves off to the real power of our collective capacity to create change.
There will always be challenges to be solved, but many of the ones we do not work to solve now will evolve into problems that will devastate generations who will never know our names. Perhaps it will only matter to some that they will curse the remnants of our memories for leaving them with a present that we have filled with the cost of our inaction.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at email@example.com.