Today is your third birthday.
Actually, it was six days ago. So this is late. Like your gift, which I'll probably get around to shipping sometime next week.
But I'm writing now because I needed a little time to think about a good thing to tell you on your birthday. Something more useful to you later than a card would be to you right now (especially since you don't even know how to read yet).
It's weird that you're three because it doesn't feel like enough years for who you are. With most kids, I think, "I can't believe they're already three/four/five/fifteen!" But with you, I keep having to count up from the year you were born just to be sure. 2013, 2014, 2015. Yup, just three every time.
Maybe this means you have an old soul.
I've been thinking about time a lot lately. Partially because I'm turning thirty this year, which I rarely think about until someone reminds me and then I think about it a lot. But also because I have so many things I want to build and make and do and see and feel. Thoughts and ideas and hopes that I want to string together into something meaningful. My impatience feels substantial.
Patience is something I've had to work on a lot. Since I was your age, but this year especially. Patience with myself, patience with others. It's a daily struggle. Frequently, I fail. And patience is really just a time issue.
We obsess about time.
What time is it?
Out of time.
Time out. (you're especially familiar with these right now)
Bedtime. (my favorite)
There are days when I can't stop checking the clock. Days when I worry more than usual about time. Where I am. Where I want to be. Where I think I need to be. And then I have days when I move through the world entirely on my own time, arriving and leaving when it feels right. Waking up when I'm rested, eating when I'm hungry, working when I'm thinking, running when I'm antsy, sleeping when I'm tired.
No days are better than those days.
The thing about clock time is that it doesn't actually matter. The time of the day, the day on the calendar, the month or the year or the extra year you just gained when the daily tallies added up to another birthday—those things are just measurements. Things that make it possible for us to have some order in this life. But they aren't the point. Because the truest thing about time is that it's yours. All the minutes of all the days of all the years, those are minutes of your life. Minutes that you own.
You can plan and schedule those minutes. You can fill them with commitments and meetings and tasks. You can gauge your time against the people around you, comparing your growth or age or success to theirs. But that frantic filling and comparing is just panic wrapped in the illusion of control. And it's all built on the myth that time is running out.
Hadley, time isn't running out. It's just running. You have all the time you need for the things that matter.
Try not to worry too much about when things are going to happen. The best things in life usually arrive when you least expect them. Like you. Kicking and screaming your way into this world at 11:03am on a Friday, weeks before we expected you but exactly when we needed you.
I guess that's the birthday thing I really want you to know: timing matters, not time.
Timing is when you say the right words in the right tone at the right moment to a friend who needs them. It's also when you don't. Timing is every relationship you'll ever have, in all the nuanced ways you'll have them. It's where you are with yourself at any given moment.
Sometimes your timing will match up with someone else's timing. When this happens, it'll feel like the whole universe is working in your favor. But other times, you'll feel alone in your timing. You'll feel too far ahead or too far behind or just off, like you're missing the beat. This can feel tragic. But it's actually completely normal. And just because your timing doesn't match up with someone else's right now doesn't mean it never will. Paths cross and uncross and recross all the time. It's not linear; it's how life moves.
The hardest thing is that once you accept your timing is your own, you must also accept that everyone else's timing is their own, too. If you figure out how to do this well, please share your secrets.
Things take the time they need to take. Don't rush.
Happy birthday, Had.
I love you.
Some of my favorite moments from when you were born. I cried when your mom sent me that first picture of your beautiful face – your perfect lips, those long fingers, tucked tight in a fist. I still can't even handle your brother holding you so protectively. Of course, we all loved you immediately. Lucky us.