How Long Is a Year?
January 6th, 2010

One year ago IEP was about 6 weeks old.  He could barely hold up his head.  He woke every three hours to eat overnight.  He couldn’t sit, crawl, pick up a toy, eat a Cheerio, point, wave, talk, or walk.  Today he is a vastly different baby.  (GAP claims he’s a toddler now, which is probably fair, but I’m not yet ready to concede that baby-hood is behind us.)  In just a year he has changed in nearly innumerable ways.  I, too, am different than I was a year ago, but not on the scale that he is.

My vocabulary is about the same.  I’m the same size.  I have the same number of teeth (thankfully…)  My physical abilities aren’t much different (although I can now prepare most of a meal with a baby on one hip, and I couldn’t do that a year ago).  I’m not particularly smarter or stronger.  A year is long enough for a tiny little lump of a baby to become a walking, talking, actual person.  Yet I am essentially the same.  But why?

This causes me to think about the way a child approaches the world.  All that children want is to know more, understand more, and do more.  To be bigger, smarter, faster, and funnier tomorrow than they were today.  To read their first “chapter” book, or make their first three-pointer, or be invited to the grown-up table during holiday dinners.  They question.  They wonder.  Toddlers ask “why?” until the answer has to do either with physics, God, or both and we don’t know what to say in response.  When was the last time that your curiosity was so unquenchable?  For me, at least, it’s been a while.

As adults we are so prone to approach life on a need-to-know basis.  Whether it’s the distribution of TARP funds, or the merits of last year’s round of Nobel laureates, or the moral grey area that surrounds our food supply, we only want to know as much as we need to get by.  To some extent this is a survival mechanism.  How are we supposed to keep track of careers, mortgage payments, birthdays, college savings funds, and whether or not we’re out of dog food if we’re wrapped up in things that don’t immediately or ultimately affect us?         

But it’s also a bit lazy, don’t you think?  Because the thing is that, while perhaps not immediately, ultimately most of those things do affect us.  Why shouldn’t we all have a basic understanding of how our government is spending our donated tax dollars, or what worthwhile books were written last year, or where our food comes from?  Perhaps not all of these things pique my interest enough to spend limited personal time exploring them in depth.  I should, however, have a cursory understanding of them.

And on a personal level why am I not more curious or motivated to continue developing?  A year from now I could be much different than I am today.  I could be in better shape.  I could be better read.  I could speak another language.  I could be better traveled.  I could interact with a broader range of people.

If a year is long enough for my son to go from a swaddled newborn to an active toddler, it’s also long enough for me to make some strides of my own.  My mind should be a playground, not a fallow field. Watching IEP fiend for knowledge and understanding has inspired me to do the same.

6 Responses to “How Long Is a Year?”

  1. Jan Says:

    From the point of view of someone in her early 60s, I’d say one answer to your question is: we just get tired. It is scary to me to think that I get tired of making the mental effort to learn something. That’s not how I used to be. At 30, one shouldn’t get mentally tired, but people do. Also–and this is particularly stupid–I’ve read that if we grew, all our lives, at the same rate we do as a baby, we’d all be the size of battleships. There you go…

  2. Laura H. Says:

    I completely get yearning to develop in the intellectual ways we are molded through years of schooling to believe are the highest or best way to develop or achieve.
    However I also need to say that you should give yourself some more credit over the past year! You may not have written a book or developed technology to stop global warming, but you learned to be a mommy. To nurture and support a baby takes a lot of time and energy and there is a huge learning curve. Despite sleep deprivation, spit-up on our business attire and remembering when the baby last pooped, we Moms tackle loving and supporting our babies in the same way my 5 year old can’t wait to get to school, loves chapter books and wants to grow up to be a palentologist.
    My contibution in raising children in a way that they will become strong and productive and caring members of our world community is a far greater contribution than any intellectual development or endeavor I could undertake. Just my two cents! :)

  3. Jeanna Says:

    I disagree that you haven’t made great strides in learning new things this past year. As a new mother myself I look at all that I’ve learned about babies. I could write a book on the information I’ve learned to get them to sleep through the night. I’ve become more patient and learned to enjoy everyday moments. I’m sure you’ve developed similar knowledge and skills.

    As you mentioned, I think it all boils down to the scale. When you start at nothing it is easy to make great leaps and bounds from where you were. Next year my girls are going to be 100% older than they are today while I’ll only be 2.6% older, yet we are all one year older.

  4. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    Another great post. It really is amazing how much little kids transform over one year’s time and how little we do. I think that if we choose to, we can change in more subtle, but meaningful ways. We can lose a few pounds or find a new hobby or get a new haircut. But nothing compares to that revolutionary evolution of our early days.

    I too am inspired by my girls. By their imagination and curiosity. And I agree that every “mind should be a playground, not a fallow field.” By starting this great new blog, I think your mind will slowly but surely become that playground you imagine.

  5. Chelsea Talks Smack Says:

    This was a great post, i was just thinking about the enthusiasm of children the other day, its so inspiring.

  6. christina Says:

    Young life is inspirational, isn’t it? I have grown so much because of my children. I thought I would be the one teaching and they would do all the learning but it hasn’t been that one-sided. Thank goodness!