My oldest child turns 8 this weekend. We’ve got various fun stuff planned, and I’ll be reading to his 2nd grade class this afternoon. I’ve been practicing. I feel it’s good to practice before any public presentation, and just because the audience is 7 and 8 years old doesn’t change that.
I’m not really finding myself saying “I can’t believe you’re 8 already!” In my life I can’t say that the days are long but the years are short. I feel like the years have been pretty substantial themselves. We’ve packed a lot in.
One reason I am aware of the space of the years is that I started thinking about and writing about time in earnest after my son’s birth. I was pondering the various narratives people spouted, and I started researching how people spent their time, now and in the past. After a long 18 months or so of attempting to get traction on my ideas, I finally got the contract to write 168 Hours. My other books have followed from that.
I was filling out a survey once where you had to answer how your children have affected your career. There were various choices like “big impact” and “some impact” and “no impact.” I thought about clicking “no impact” because I wanted to make the point that I was still working and still trying to move forward in what I was doing. But then I thought about it and realized my kids did have a major impact on my career: a major positive one. I would never have started writing about the topics I write about if I didn’t have my kids.
Writing about time has also made me more aware of the preciousness of these hours. My nearly-8-year-old is getting big and sometimes rebellious, but he can still be coaxed into snuggles at night. He can be dramatic and sullen, but he can also beam with pride when he finishes his Ulysses S. Grant timeline (and gave a presentation on it! His classmates graded him and I read the comments — so cute!) He’s a shockingly fast runner and has told me he wants to run races with me once he’s old enough for distance running. I’ve said I’m happy to sign up with him in a few years, but he’ll leave me in his dust.
He has never been a sleeper. I do have a memory from years ago, when he was in his crib in our apartment in NYC, and I was trying to convince him to go to sleep. I had recently sang the Rachmaninoff Vespers with my choir at the time, and there’s a moment in movement four when the harmony deepens and resolves. It is translated from the Russian as “Thou art worthy at every moment…” As I held my 2-year-old’s hand in his crib, and listened as his protestations got quieter, and then became silence, and then became slumber, the phrase popped into my head again. As I wrote in 168 Hours: “But this time the words were different: Thou art worth every moment. There in the dark nursery, I kept repeating that text. It sums up how I feel about this special little boy.” I still do. And now he goes to bed later than me!
Links: I have a column in today’s USA Today called (in the online version) “Work is life, but that’s a good thing.” It’s about the surprising practicality of following your passion.
Lorraine Candy, the editor-in-chief of Elle in the UK, wrote about I Know How She Does It in the Daily Mail. I quite enjoyed this review (she’s a “mum,” as they say, of four herself).
Modern Mrs. Darcy’s much-anticipated annual Summer Reading Guide is out today. She read hundreds of books to choose 35 good ones that she knows will appeal to her readers. I’m looking forward to exploring the novel offerings (and I’m thrilled to be included in the non-fiction category).
If you like my blog, you might also like my next book, I Know How She Does It. Pre-order before June 2 and you can join my book club, with perks including a signed book plate, advance excerpts, and access to two webinars around launch. Thanks for reading!