Why Does Time Move Faster As We Get Older?

This is an age-old observation: time flies as you get older. That as a kid, time can’t move fast enough for you… you want to get older, or get to summer break, or just be done with school for the day… but those are all daydreams. And especially parents you hear talking about how their children’s lives have flown by. So there’s one group saying that time’s going so slowly, and one saying it’s flying by!

One of our favorite... or least favorite... sorts of clocks. Found this as the thumbnail to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-o4tZHwAww

One of our favorite… or least favorite… sorts of clocks.
Found this as the thumbnail to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-o4tZHwAww

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and it’s grown particularly apparent as we are expecting our first child this summer. I doubt this is an original sort of thought, and it’s certainly not scientifically proven… more of a hypothesis. Nonetheless, I would say I have an idea on the answer for why time flies as we get older. Let me know what you think at the end!

Measuring Time

For one thing, I think there is a major change in how we measure time. As a kid, I think life is a day-by-day experience. This playtime. Between meals. This day at school. Done with playtime with a friend for the day? Okay, see you tomorrow. As an adult, when I am done getting to play D&D or Warmachine with friends, we are having to look at calendars to see if there’s a time in the next month when we can play!

Eventually with school, a kid starts thinking more about the weekend – but still, they often get to play after school (or even at school!) and do what they want. The weekend isn’t largely different, so it’s not nearly as exciting as it gets as you get older.

But once we are older! I think we stop measuring time in days. The minimum unit is instead the week. There are patterns to the week, much like as a kid there were patterns to the day. Where a kid might be moving from meal to meal, or from home to school to home, as an adult we’re moving from work to meetings to events to chores and housework to shopping to… life.

And so we don’t just get to say “I’ll do that when I get home.” It’s “I can do that Tuesday” or “This weekend.” Often the weekend. Usually the weekend. As a kid, coming home was the fun time, the time off. As an adult, it’s the weekend, the end of our new measurement unit: the week. That’s when we plan the fun, and a lot of the extra work, too. I know we at least end up with way more planned for any given weekend than actually happens!

Dragon Age Inquisition

Or how long did we wait for this?

Or there’s longer terms, like planning for your next vacation. We have definitely had periods where we were living for that next vacation, planning for it and it was the next big thing. We saved and planned for two years to go to Australia last fall, for instance. We were looking at time in a long stretch with that, not just in a day-to-day, or even week-to-week, fashion.

Adults often make plans, too. Several-year plans. Like plans about finishing a college degree and what to do after it. Like five-year plans, and where they want to be after that. Planning and measuring and living our lives in multi-year segments, not just living from recess to playtime.

And It Gets Worse

So I had already been thinking the above thoughts. It goes along with some of my musing of late, about what it means to be an adult, things like that. Because I already had this thought in mind about how we think in different terms about time, I am realizing why the worse effect happens when you become a parent.

Now I’m no longer planning in terms of week by week. Not even planning months at a time, vacation to vacation (though my next planned trip is in July – going to go see Rush in concert!!!). And yes, there’s a five-year plan, but there’s a lot more than that.

Let’s start with one example. My favorite novel is Dune. I of course want to share this with my child. What’s an appropriate age to read Dune? I read it in middle school and got it, and then again with the rest of the series in high school, obsessing over it. Okay, so that seems a good time. That’s like 13 years from now! How about Game of Thrones? Longer than that!

Okay, how about television. Doctor Who. After all, in Britain it’s considered a children’s show (and I guess it is here in the U.S. too?). But probably not too young – some of those monsters or concepts could give nightmares! So here I am planning TV watching a decade from now.

Also, I’ve realized that some of these recent movies that have geeks pondering, like the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, or the new Star Wars films: our child is going to be able to watch these series in order and without waiting. Has it been weird watching the Hobbit movies after Lord of the Rings? Yes. Will it make more sense the other way? Maybe. How about Star Wars? Oh, or the full Marvel Cinematic Universe!

And I’ve mentioned five-year plans, and all of a sudden, mine seems really easy. After all, a five-year plan at this point is like asking the question, what are we doing between now and Kindergarten? That’s when everything will change again.

Basically, starting to think about how and when to do and add and introduce things over the next 18+ years. We’re fleshing out an 18-year plan, not only with media and things to share our love with our future Geek Baby, but other things – what we want to be doing for work, saving for college, budgeting for childcare.

Parents talk about their children’s lives, their 18 years at home, passing by far too quickly. As I start thinking about the fact that I am now measuring out all of the time in those next 18 years, I can see how that time might fly by!

So what do you think? Is that why time flies by? Or do you have your own theory? Let me know in the comments below!

13 responses to “Why Does Time Move Faster As We Get Older?

  1. I think it’s definitely one of the reasons. Perhaps we spend too much time thinking about it, and planning for the next stage and the next, that we forget to stop and enjoy it while it’s happening! I wonder if we enjoyed each moment, would it slow time down? So instead of looking back and thinking ‘where did the last ten years go’ maybe it’s about reflecting on everything we achieved and thinking – ‘wow, that was an incredible ten years!’ That’s easier said than done though, because there’s always things to plan for, and things to worry about – especially when you have children. My dad used to tell me to stop wishing time away, and he may have been right!


    • There are definitely tendencies in children to be wanting to rush things along, to grow up too soon. Of course, some of that might be the parents reflecting on it too, thinking about how the time is flying for them!

      Reflection is an important part I didn’t spend time on. I will have to think about that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In general, events are happening in a smaller fraction of our lifespan.

    If you tell a child “we’ll do that next year” that means 20% of your life will have to pass before we do that.

    It’s like telling me we’ll do that in ten years.


  3. I recently read an article about a study that said if we want to slow time down, we have to notice the details. Like you said, notice the days instead of the weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

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