I’m embarrassed to say, but I have a condition. The Jews have coined my condition “schpilkas.” The English translation for this is “ants in the pants.” I cannot sit through anything that is longer than two hours. Being that this is Academy Award season and I force myself to watch all the movies that were nominated, this is a rough time of year for me.
This past weekend, I was alone in a hotel room fatigued and suffering from flu-like symptoms. Forced to stay in bed for a few hours, I figured it was a good time to watch the three-hour movie that is “Boyhood.” It was about an hour too long, but it was amazing. In a nutshell, the movie’s message is that every moment counts. Each moment, no matter how big or small, important or trivial: they all matter. We need to enjoy and embrace it all because it goes by way too fast. (There: I saved you 3 hours. Now go see my favorite movie of the year-“Whiplash.” It was fantastic and under 2 hours.)
Earlier in the week, I went to high school orientation for my 8th grade son. I had an incredibly hard time that night. (And not because I don’t remember agreeing to be old enough to have a child in high school. In my head, I’m the one in high school.) What bothered me more was the constant talk about “fast tracking” through high school. Almost every speaker got up and discussed ways for our kids to earn college credits or to graduate early. I heard lots of talk about “honors” classes and “hours of homework,” and not enough of words like “learning” or “enjoy.”
In this society, we all have schpilkas. We are running and pushing and shoving our kids to get to places faster than anyone else. We are crazed lunatics, making sure that we are sprinting, bolting, and forcing our way to the finish line. But what happens when we get there? It just sort of ends. We never enjoyed the ride.
It is a good thing that I am excellent at being unable to relax. No parent today is allowed to anyway. I myself spent Friday in Arizona taking care of my 6-year old with the flu, Saturday in California cheering on my daughter at her cheerleading competition, and Sunday watching my son perform his last show. I drove back and forth for 8 hours by myself. I did all of this because I wanted to be there for all of their moments. Big or small, happy or sad. They all matter.
Parents: please don’t try this at home. Bolting all over the country to try to be at everything for all of your kids is not for the faint of heart. I’m exhausted. I realize I don’t have to be at every single moment. I just really really want to be.
I hope that when Sam enters 9th grade, he will be able to enjoy each and every part of being in high school. The highs, the lows, and everything in between. I don’t want him to rush through it or to graduate early. I don’t want to speed up time. I would actually prefer to stop it.
I’m sorry I’m so maudlin tonight. Perhaps it was all the depressing Superbowl commercials or because of the fact that two of my favorite characters, Katniss and Katy Perry morphed into one person tonight, creating one less person for me to be interested in besides myself. It could be that everyone I know in Arizona partied with superstars all weekend and I was in an Embassy Suites in Las Quintas, California.
And so, I think I will just continue to hold onto the message of “Boyhood” and also of the lyrics of Billy Joel’s Vienna, which I listened to over and over in the car by myself and also sang incredibly loud at the top of my lungs:
“Slow down you crazy child, You’re so ambitious for a juvenile, Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about? You better cool it off before you burn it out You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through..When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?”
What Billy and Ethan Hawke are telling us through their art is the same: Slow down, enjoy the moments. Be present and stop rushing. Who are you racing against? The end will always be there waiting for you. This particular moment will not.
Or, as I myself would just simply put it: Slow the fuck down.