Headshot of Michael Antonelli with an abstract image of the earth in the background.

24 Hours

I made a mistake at work today and now I feel awful.  My daughter just cracked her iPhone for the third time and I’m beyond incensed. The stock market fell 2% and clients are wondering if they should do something to their portfolios.     

They say the “days go slow but the years fly,” and as I sit here stewing in my worries, I can’t help but reflect on just how fast my life is going. 

My 20s were a blur. I met my wife and we got married.  As we entered our 30s, we knew we wanted to start a family.  After that period of time, it seems like someone pushed fast forward. 

If I could map my life from the moment my son was born to its end and compress it into one 24-hour period, it would probably look like this. 

It’s midnight, my son was just born.

The doctor hands him to me, He has a wry smile, but he’s not crying.  It seems weird because aren’t babies supposed to cry after they are born? He’s healthy, but my wife looks at me from the table wondering if he’s ok. He is beautiful. We take him home to our condo in Chicago and our life will never be the same. We are in our late 30s and nervous as any new parents would be. 

It’s 1 a.m. 

Is there a manual for raising a newborn? Was there a class I missed that told me what to do when he cries late at night? We’ll figure it out, We have to, because there’s no going back now. One night he can’t stop coughing and every breath is a wheeze. What the heck is croup? 

It’s 2 a.m. 

He’s walking!  His grandparents are so proud, as are we.  I can’t believe how fast he is growing, not only is he eating solid food but he starting to talk.  We read him the same book every night.  He’s precocious, he knows who we are and he loves Max and Ruby.  Having a son is awesome. 

It’s 3 a.m. 

My daughter was just born. We tried for so long to have our first child but our second child showed up quickly. I had a dream we would have a girl, seriously. Now that she’s here I can’t believe how beautiful she is. I started a new job at a financial services firm named Baird in Milwaukee. I had heard of it but didn’t know how awesome it was.  There are so many nice people and this place is special. 

It’s 4 a.m. 

The children are growing like weeds! We took them to Disney World for the first time and it’s a trip we’ll never forget. My son thinks Mickey is real and my daughter hugged Ariel. My wife and I fight over how many stuffies we should buy. Do parents always fight at Disney?  I think so because you can see them in every corner of the park trying to keep it together.  We didn’t know it at the time, but this would become our family’s happy place. 

It’s 5 a.m. 

My son is in sixth grade and my daughter is in fourth grade.  It turns out they are really good swimmers. We tried football, baseball, volleyball, and soccer, most of the sports parents think their kids will be good at, but ours ended with swimming. Do you know what sucks about this sport? Sitting in a pool for four hours only to watch your kid swim for a few minutes.  Oh well, at least we aren’t baseball parents, they seem like they’re crazy. 

It’s 11 a.m. 

Wait, where did the time go? Did the clock just speed up? Yep, it sure did. The summers die one by one, how soon they fly on and on. 

It’s noon.

My son is now 15 and my daughter is 13. My wife and I are a little bigger than when this all started but we are much wiser about being parents. My children now look at their phone nonstop, but they can cook their own food.  They’ve figured out how to use Apple Pay and pretty soon my son will be driving. We are teachers now more than anything. They don’t need us hovering over them but they do need our wisdom. 

At 1 p.m. my son will leave us for college, at 2 p.m. my daughter will also depart, and the nest will be empty. 

Over the next 10 hours we will live the rest of our lives watching them grow, seeing how well we did as parents. Hopefully, they will have children and we will get the best job ever -- being grandparents.  

I wish I could stop the clock for even one moment. I see parents with small kids who are frustrated that they are crying, won’t go to sleep, or just won’t behave and I would almost trade places with them. 

There was a night I carried my son to bed for the last time but I don’t remember it. I’m sure he was tired since he fell asleep on the couch. I lifted him up, placed him in his bed and kissed him goodnight. I would pay any amount of money to relive it - literally any amount. 

That dream I mentioned of having a girl?  It’s now a fading memory and I wish I had a video of it. She’s just as perfect as she was in that dream. 

Even if you never have kids or a family, your life is what’s happening around you every day.  Embrace all the little things like a walk, a good dinner with friends, or a trip to someplace new. If someone says “hey, let’s go out,” never turn that down, because an unexpected adventure may lie ahead of you. 

Rose Kennedy once said, “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.” 

Each moment is special. The clock may be ticking but your life is lived by the second, don’t waste any of them. 

It’s 11:59 p.m. 

What a journey, I live in them now.