Why Time Flies

Phrases like ‘time flies’, ‘where has the year gone?’ and ‘can you believe it was 3 years ago we were in Thailand?’ never resonated with me. I never really got the sense that time was anything other than linear. Yeah, there were weeks that were really fun and weeks I’d rather forget about but it didn’t give me a sense that time itself was magically warping. All that changed however when my friends started having kids…

On Wednesday, I caught up with a mate who has a 3 year old to regale them with stories from my holiday the UK. Three weeks earlier, her little fella had one single word in his vocabulary – ‘woof’. And not a very convincing ‘woof’ either I might add, the ‘W’ was soft so it sort of just sounded like ‘oof.

Well, things had changed dramatically. The 3 year old upstaged me and did the regaling himself! Perhaps while I was away he finally mastered ‘woof’ and this gave him the confidence to voice a whole bunch of other words he had been sitting on, I’m not sure, but suddenly dozens of words were cascading from his mouth. Not just animal sounds either, foods, colours, prepositions… Suddenly he speaks English better than I speak French and I studied French for 5 years at high school.

I see my nieces even less frequently because they live in London. Every time I catch up with them I get a similar surprise. One, who is 7 years old, just took up the cello. This time two weeks ago I was helping her practice. Her improvement was rapid. Even from from one session to the next, I got a tangible sense of it. She was committing the notes to memory so quickly that I had to keep reminding her to look at the sheet music while she was playing. I couldn’t reconcile this with my own slow progress learning piano over the last 12 months.

When I was 12, I, myself went through a period of accelerated development. Mine took the form of a growth spurt that I imagine would have shocked my parents out in much the same way as I have described my shock above. I remember one of Dad’s mates at the golf club one day being shocked at my sudden increase in height and asking me how much I had grown. ‘About an inch’ was my reply. ‘An inch a month’ Dad clarified. I had assumed the question related to monthly improvement as that was how we chartered it on the wall at home.*

It’s your kids who give you the sense that ‘time flies’. Their ability to master a language in 12 months simply warps your concept of time. Their impossibly rapid improvement on musical instruments is non linear and their abnormal increase in height leaves us to conclude that time itself is merely an abstract concept.

* Sadly my rate of growth did not endure into my high school years. I maxed out at 183cm. Mum still equates the growth spurt with direct proximity to a local Red Rooster we briefly lived close to.

Do you get the feeling that time flies because of how rapidly your kids are changing? Leave a comment below…

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