Ever wonder why an hour-long drive with a two year old feels like twenty? Well, for you it only feels that way but for your toddler, it really is.
If you’re two-years-old, you’ve had about 17,500 hours on earth. If you’re forty, you’ve had twenty times as many (about 350,000).
Therefore, proportionally, the hour it takes you to drive from grannie’s is the equivalent of a twenty-hour ordeal to your squealing, crying, babbling, bottle-chucking child. I don’t know about you, but twenty hours in a seat staring at eight lanes of freeway with the same frigging toy in my hand would have me yelling ‘freedom!’ – or ‘blishnitz’ – too.
As Dr Karl so rightly pointed out, the reason it feels like the years go faster as we get older is because they represent a smaller and smaller percentage of our lives. When you’re five, a year is twenty per cent of your life, an incomprehensibly long time (especially when for the first forty per cent you were largely a bundle of drool and sensation). It is the equivalent of six years to a thirty-year-old; over a decade to someone in their fifties. If Christmas only came once every ten years, we’d all be hanging out for it too.
Conversely, when you’re fifty, a year is only two per cent of your life, or about a month to your two year old. Small wonder as we age it feels as though we could simply stick the Easter eggs under the Christmas tree and leave it at that.
Let’s look at another example. My nineteen-month-old son (aka The Bottomless Pit) squeals impatiently whenever I make him a meal. I usually take about ten to fifteen minutes depending on what’s cooking.
To me, this is an acceptable period of anticipation at what is to come. To Coop, it is three and a half hours of good smells and no action. No wonder he marches about, lower lip thrust out like Mussolini on the balcony, throwing toy cars instead of rhetoric.
It is common knowledge that toddlers get screwy when they haven’t slept all day; mine reaches a point where he makes pig noises when he sees birds, or starts babbling in what sounds Italian via Korean. This is because, proportionate to me, he has been awake for a week and a half, or about 240 hours. Can you imagine how nutty you’d be after ten days of being awake? I’d be making a few pig noises myself, regardless of what was in front of me.
In the Lord of the Flies mayhem of the average day, it is easy to forget that little people are like us, only compressed, condensed, and measuring time in large Duplo-like blocks to our tiny Lego. So the next time the trip to Grannie’s descends in to the Wild Rumpus, at least you can sympathise, if not empathise; seen from their viewpoint, they’ve been pretty patient.
But maybe we can understand what it feels like to be that young again. Think about when you come home after spending the day away from your child; they squeal with delight and run or reach out to you, waiting to be enfolded and loved anew. And why shouldn’t they be? They’ve been without one of their favourite people for what seems to them days, weeks even.
To the parent, it feels about the same.
Ben is a freelancer, writer and musician, rounding out his ineligibility for a respectable income by harbouring an interest in philosophy. His stories have appeared in Aurealis, The Waterhouse Review and The Weekenders Magazine. When not writing he plays guitar so that his wife and 20 month old son can make up songs (they all involve pigs). You can follow him on Twitter @BenjaminAllmon.