Do you ever notice things have changed through some task that you do repeatedly?

I had this experience on the weekend. It is part of my household role description to wash the dog. We’ve got a West Highland Terrier named Sno-Joe (my daughter wanted to call him Snowy and my son wanted to call him Joseph!) He is approaching ten years old. Still pretty fit and well but definitely getting older. So the first thing noticed with this regular task is that Sno-Joe didn’t flinch when I asked him if he wanted a bath. The words ‘bath’ or ‘wash’ tend to see him get up and find a hiding spot. It is terrible teasing but we always get a laugh from our dog’s antics – please don’t tell me that dogs aren’t intelligent creatures.

So, Sno-Joe was up for a bath. He walked towards me and seemed to be saying… “Yeah, I am a bit pongy. I’ll take the wash!” (Yes I know I’m anthropomorphising him – but I challenge you to convince me that dogs are not people.) The big thing I’ve noticed over the last few washes is that when I tell him he is good to jump out of the bath, he is now really struggling to get out. As a sprightlier hound, he always cleared the bath-tub edge on the first attempt. Now it takes him quite a few goes. There will be a point in the not too distant future where I will have to lift him out. But my heart is saying ‘not just yet’.

The thing for me with this is that my kids have grown up from being real little people as Sno-Joe has gone from being a puppy, to a dog in his prime to the beginnings of an ‘old man’. I want our dog to keep being fit and independent… but with my kids, I want time to put the brakes on their independence just for a little while yet. I want my kids to hold back on growing up. My daughter is seventeen, my son fourteen and every week, there are signs that those little people are disappearing. My daughter had a friend over last week and got out some old school photos – her first year in primary school… just eleven years ago. Then she found another class photo of her in Grade Two – the year we brought Sno-Joe home as a puppy. How quickly does the time go?

The rhythm of household routines and everyday rituals that we practice can pique moments in time and enliven the memory. I am proud of how my kids are growing up but part of my ‘dad-DNA’ worries for them just like I’m sure my mum and dad felt for me. Repeated activities have a meditative dimension that invite our attentiveness. I notice these feelings attached to the shifts in time as tiny bits of grief that have their melancholy, their bitter-sweet edge but there’s stacks of love too, in the mix of all this. That attentiveness maybe helps us to invest small pieces of extra trust in our kids as they make their journey towards young adulthood.

I guess that the challenge is to enjoy every moment. It is 9.46am in the morning here in Melbourne – my teenagers are still fast asleep (on school holidays). Who knows what time they will wake up? They need their sleep… but old man Sno-Joe is up and sitting at my feet as I write. Time to sieze the day and take him for a walk. It is certain that he will he will be deleriously happy about this simple invitation. It is great having an appreciative dog when you have teenagers in the house!

What are the everyday tasks and rituals that give you a subtle measure of the steady movement of time? Feel free to write your answers below. Also – have a guess at what time you think my kids will wake up today! I’ll let you know in the space below!

Thanks for taking the Time & Space to read this.

Bill Jennings