Voojah Day

How do you notice time passing?

I don’t mean the numbers on a clock, or some beep on your smartphone that wakes you up in the morning – I mean how do you mentally register that where you are at this exact moment now isn’t the same place where you were back then?

One of the frustrating things about parenting is that it’s hard get a clear picture of your kids growing up. Sure you see them getting taller, deal with them moving up in school or taking on different interests or groups of friends or whatever, but when you look at them, they’re still your baby.

My son is 13. He’s a teenager. But when he asks questions about how the world works, or I catch sight of him playing on his own or just being himself he might as well be five years old forever. In a few years that five year old is gonna want to drive, and the thought of that just blows my mind.

And it’s cute and all – but there’s a side to it that’s also not so great, because when you still see your child as a little kid, it’s all too easy just to keep treating them like one – almost like you’re wishfully hoping for them to stay that young as long as you can keep them that way. At its worst, this is the kind of thinking where you end up with mothers breastfeeding 9 year olds, but for the rest of us – it manifests in weird little quirks that seem harmless at first, but then one day make you realize that you’re coddling a young adult instead of preparing them for a life on their own.

For example, I clearly remember a day back in college when I suddenly realized that I had no idea how to cook for myself at all.

And my mother wasn’t really a coddler in any sense of the word – but most of the time when my brother and I were in the kitchen with her (even when she asked us to help her make dinner) we’d eventually hit that point where we were in the way and she’d shoo us out or make us go set the table. Oh I could microwave stuff, but a lot of the things I could have learned BY making dinner alongside my mom never materialized because she was happier handling all those things herself (or at least that's how I remember it).

In fact, I bet if you think about it – those of you who grew up helping your parents cook (or cooking for the family because a parent wasn’t there) probably hated that shit when you were a kid, only to realize when everyone else was burning spaghetti and figuring out the science behind ramen noodles in college that you actually had a skill in your pocket that had some value.

You see it in different ways all around you, like people who insist upon changing their own oil -- But it’s just as apparent in reverse. I’m sure we’ve all known grown adults who work with complex computers all day who couldn’t to build a bookshelf to save their lives and you wonder how they’ve even survived on this planet with that kind of gaping hole in their intellect, and which one of their parents let them down so badly.
All of which makes me worry a little bit when I think of how completely messed up my little boy’s idea of “Déjà vu” is.
I don’t remember exactly where he first heard the term, but I do remember him asking me what it meant. He was three or four at the time, and was in this stage where he was ALWAYS asking questions about everything – even when the things he was asking about weren’t always things he could grasp the answers to. It’s a stage a lot of kids hit, but it’s also a stage I think where a lot of parents come up with the same solution – which is to offer sort of “shorthand” answers that provide the child with enough of closure to get them to STOP ASKING QUESTIONS WHILE THE GAME IS ON, but not really enough information for them to ever really get the concept they were asking about (figuring that at some point in the future you'll have a second chance to clear up the missing details).

Long story short, because of my desire to watch football or whatever – my son grew up accepting my stupid abbreviated answer to his questions so much that now he believes that Déjà vu is the feeling of recognition that happens when you go to the same place more than once.

Not like real Déjà vu, that uncomfortable sense that you’ve experienced events in your life sometime before in the exact same manner – but more like whenever we go grocery shopping he’ll tell me he’s “having Déjà vu right now" because we’re at the same supermarket we went to last week.”

At first it was kinda cute hearing my kid expressing his feeling that he was having some sort of extra-sensory moment every time we went to the drive thru at Wendy’s – but there’s a point where you sorta realize the kid may never really fully grasp this concept, and it makes you feel like a bad parent.

But then there’s this weird other side effect that’s happened because of all this -- Now MY definition of Déjà vu has sorta evolved to match his.

Or perhaps a better way to say it is that when I experience similar things in similar places over time, the best way I can think of to accurately describe it is to invoke my son’s definition of the term, almost like some sort of vernacular or slang.

For example, I went to a dinner party with friends the other night, and it dawned upon me that I was actually in the exact same place less than a year ago listening to the exact same douchebag play horrible acoustic guitar versions of 90’s pop songs – something I documented on twitter at the time, much to the delight of a Facebook friend of mine who soon after invited me to a lunch date that essentially started a relationship (that I’m currently in the process of trying to get over the breakup of) – and that’s not really déjà vu at all.

But it does sort of fit my kid’s fucked up definition of it.

So all the while sharing stories over dinner with friends last night, I couldn’t help but be struck by how vivid the memory of that first night I was there for a dinner for one was in my mind. But more than that – it was impossible not to realize the fact that this memory was from something that happened in February.

So much happened in that relationship. So much passion, so many cool experiences. A lifetimes worth of inside jokes and steamy memories still so fresh in my mind that I can still taste them on my fingertips – it felt like a whole book worth of chapters in my life. It felt like so much more time was involved than there actually was (which is probably why it’s been so hard to get over this feeling of loss since the breakup).

There’s this great old story about Albert Einstein where apparently one day his secretary asked him to try to explain the theory of relativity to her, because she couldn’t grasp the science of it all. And after a moment of thinking he said, “If you put your hand on a hot stove for a minute it seems like an hour. But sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like only a minute. THAT'S relativity.”

I sat with that pretty girl for far more than a hour. But I hate how it still feels like we didn’t get enough time.

I mean, I’ve had other relationships that lasted longer, spanned larger periods of time – but few that were as intense. Few that I felt so strongly about. And I know that in time it will be easier to think about, easier to understand..
But right now all this Déjà vu is killing me.

[Now Playing:  The Safety Fire - "Grind the Ocean" ]