93. Time

We have more time than children do. Sometimes it feels as if we have less time, but that’s only when we’re thinking about time that hasn’t really happened yet. They probably have more of that, but so what? It hasn’t happened yet! To children, a year seems like forever. We sometimes talk about the impatience of youth, but to me, it’s something like talking about the stinginess of paupers.
Whether or not you buy this point of view, I think it can be useful in trying to understand how the world looks to children. When you tell a child “maybe later,” or worse, “maybe next year,” the child may hear “never.” “Later” and “next year” are in that nowhere land called “the future.” Unless you’ve had a lot of future in your life, it’s awfully hard to believe it really exists.
I like playing with words, and time is a subject with lots of word-play potential. The Latin word for “wait” is “patior,” the same as the word for “suffer,” which is why a doctor’s client is called a “patient.” I wonder how “wait” and “suffer” came to mean the same thing. In the last paragraph, I wrote “unless you’ve had a lot of future in your life.” Of course, as soon as you’ve had it, it no longer qualifies as future. I once told a friend that time is worth more than money; no one dies by running out of money, but everyone dies by running out of time. No wonder children are confused about time.
I prefer to think about the impatience of adults. I see more of that than I see impatient youth. Maybe we get impatient with children because we obsess on time that hasn’t happened yet. We think they’re wasting it, and later it will be too late. I’ve often heard adults voice this frustration. I’ve often voiced it myself.
There may be a few things people have to learn when they’re children, but I think nowhere near as many as some adults think. Maybe some skills that require physical dexterity and flexibility – ballet or virtuoso piano. But I know of adults who learn to read, write, and compute, and have a much easier time of it than children do. I think the mad rush to make sure they can do all of that by a certain age is unnecessary. There’s time.

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