A week before my son’s day camp started, his bus counselor called to ask if she could drop by our home to introduce herself. Her name was Niamh (pronounced Neev). Curious, I looked up the origin of the Irish name, which carries the meaning of radiance and light. And I discovered a mythical place that sums up so much about my parenting experience this summer.
You see, Niamh of the Golden Hair was a lovely princess who rode a white horse, who lived with her love Oisín, in an enchanted land where time passed at an accelerated rate. Three hundred years in our time felt like only three weeks there.
Surely that ratio will sound familiar to anyone who has spent time with children as they grow.
This summer in particular, I’ve been thinking about this place (called Tir-na-nOg) a shimmering homeland where the legendary Princess Niamh resided—because time in our home also seems to be hurtling by beyond my comprehension.
My youngest child will be finishing our beloved local elementary school this year, as my older son begins high school. My daughter will be applying to college and is about to commence her senior year in high school. Time is rushing past, and I am dizzy from the transitions.
Unlike the bus counselor with her fairy tale moniker, my straightforward name, Sharon, harbors few secrets. No, my name derives from Hebrew and refers to a plain on the Israeli coast. Like my name, I feel most safe and comfortable when on familiar ground. A secondary Hebrew meaning of “rose” resonates for me, as well—I’m a person with as roots firmly girded in.
Yet, in this hazy summer, I feel some of my roots lifting up out of the protective land. Aware that this year will be filled with nostalgic “last times” as we prepare for my daughter’s college departure, I feel unmoored.
So with all of the changes looming on my horizon, I am trying to teach myself to embrace innovation more graciously, to accept rather than fight the passage of time. Up until this past month, I had been driving the family’s 12-year-old minivan.
As the power steering started to seize up in a car that was almost ready to celebrate its own bar mitzvah, we pushed down our tears, traded it in for gas money, and bought a new vehicle.
Now I am a new driver all over again. I try to gauge my car’s girth when parking and I fumble with the gearshift, as I remember that I need to press a button to put the car into park. The car beeps and scolds me for leaving my cell phone in the vehicle, takes videos from behind, and even remembers the angles I prefer for my rearview mirrors.
I appreciate the technology, the safety features, the brilliant advances in high definition feedback, but all of this adapting is exhausting. The car and I are still in that awkward stage of a new relationship, and we still don’t quite know how to hold hands comfortably.
Adapting to change and new technology, whether it’s a car or something else, is not easy for me. After almost a year, for instance, I finally started to work with my son’s bar mitzvah photographer to create his photo album.
Whittling down 977 images to 100 that captured the spirit and joy of a rainy, autumn Sabbath wasn’t just a task of sorting through pictures of squinting or laughing relatives and friends—for me, it was a technological and emotional minefield.
My hunch is that sorting through photos on a computer is not a problem at all for most people. They brazenly click away at the images, never giving a thought to the possibility of losing them down some sort of computer rabbit hole, and don’t experience the motion sickness caused by excessive scrolling called “cyber nausea.”
But when I sent the file of the photo album draft to the photographer yesterday, I felt relief and pride. I’m moving into the future.
I know that time will move on at its merciless, dizzying clip whether I’m with it or not. That’s why I’m attempting to make my peace with the computer. I’m learning to drive the new car and reluctantly enjoying the rear view when anxiously backing out of tricky parking spots.
What can I do? This morning, my 13-year-old son came down for breakfast and seemed to have overtaken me in height overnight. Mythical Niamh lives forever in the “Land of the Young.” But I live here, where that acceleration feels real but the eternal youth does not. It’s a land where children grow up and will be leaving soon.
I hope I’ve given them my roots, but also the confidence to ride off on their horses and bring their own enchantment to the world.