It’s our job as parents to instill morals, a code of ethics, manners, when to use a fork and when to use your hands, why wiping your boogers on your sleeve can be seen as gross. All sorts of things we teach our kids. One lesson that seems to keep coming up is time.
Kids are notorious for having no sense of time. As babies, playing peekaboo, when your kids see you come out from behind your hands, it’s as if they haven’t seen you in 3 hours. My daughters used to wake up from an hour nap and greet my wife and me as if we had just gotten back from an 11 year mission to Mars. Being a kid is like being in a perpetual casino with no clocks where minutes pass like hours and hours pass like minutes.
Growing up, my parents did me no favors in the time department. Anytime we left anywhere, we were given a 10 minute warning. Growing up, my sister and I knew that 10 minute warning could mean anything from 10 minutes to 3 hours. I was convinced 10 minutes meant I still had time to start and finish a game of Monopoly.
Now a parent, among the things I was sure I wouldn’t do to my kids (besides make them eat Brussels sprouts) was giving them a meaningless 10 minute warning. If I said 10 minutes, I wanted them to know it meant 10 minutes.
Let’s just say it has been a work in progress.
“Tell the kids 10 more minutes please.” My wife seems to think if I give the kids the deadline, somehow it will resonate louder.
“Kids!” I try to put an authoritarian tone to my voice. I want them to hear me because there is a better than good chance they’ll become selectively deaf. Somehow when I call them for dessert they could hear me whispering through a wind tunnel yet when I tell them to come for a bath, I have to deal with two tiny Helen Kellers.
“What?!” Both in unison and quasi-disgust.
“10 more minutes.”
“But Daaaaaaaaaaaaddd!” The shrill of their whine could rattle the dead. Their shoulder slump as if they were carrying a backpack full of rocks and they fling their heads back far enough to touch their spines.
I think it’s best to test the waters of their resistance, so I offer up a soft defense, “Not ‘but daaaaaaaaaaddd’.”
“But Dad, we barely even got a chance to play!” The oldest volleys back a defense.
“Hannah, we’ve been here for 4 hours. I think you’ve had plenty of time to play.” Sometimes you have to flex your parental muscles.
“Nuh-uh Daddy!” The youngest makes her presence known.
“Yuh-uh Em! 10 more minutes!” Sometimes you have to get down to their level (no surprise…I’m good at that).
“Did you tell them 10 minutes?” My wife was standing 10 feet away from me as I yelled down to the kids who were in the basement. If the windows would have been open, the neighbor kid would have thought he only had 10 more minutes to play.
“Did you not just hear me get in to a verbal slap fight with them?”
“You don’t have to get mad at me.” I offer a weak apology because drawing this out has ‘losing battle, she’ll be mad all night’ written all over it.
10 Minutes Later
“Let’s go girls!” I knew the ‘Stopwatch’ app on my phone would come in handy for something.
“Daaaaaddddy! That wasn’t 10 minutes! It was 9 minutes!” I make a mental note to myself to teach the kids about the meaning of ‘splitting hairs’.
“By the time you come up stairs it will have been 10 minutes.”
“Can’t we have 10 more minutes? We promise we’ll be ready then.” I figured on this turning in to a battle of negotiations so I’m ready for it.
“Hannah, I said 10 minutes. It’s been 10 minutes. In fact, now it has been 12 minutes. Let’s go!” I take the hard stance.
“But Daaaaaaadddd!” They stick to their original defense.
“Hannah, it is now going on nin…”
“Move, I’ll tell them.” My wife abruptly cuts me off and cross-checks me in to the island in our friend’s kitchen.
“I don’t think you had to push me out of the way.”
“Hannah! Emma! Your father said 10 minutes. Now it has been 10 minutes. It is time to go!”
Sometimes you have to step to the side (or be shoved) and let the big guns handle a situation. The way my wife was moving, I figured she was going to break up the tiny teamsters in the basement faster than Teddy Roosevelt broke up trusts. She starts making her way down the steps as she is talking to the kids.
Mere minutes pass until my wife reemerges from the basement.
“I told them they could have 10 more minutes.” She couldn’t even do me the decency to look me in the eye when she told me.
“Wha..what? Why did you do that? We told them 10 minutes not 20!” At times, when I am in utter disbelief or total shock, my normally baritone voice moves up an octave or 2. I was now in the range of shattering glass.
“Well riddle me this Batman, why did we tell them 10 more minutes if we didn’t mean 10 more minutes?”
“I told them that if we stayed 10 more minutes, when we get home they would have to go right to bed.” My wife would be the hostage negotiator that really got the hostage takers a helicopter…fully fueled…with a crack pilot waiting for them.
“So the 10 minutes meant nothing? Why don’t we let them sleep over? Better yet, let’s get rid of all the clocks in their lives because time is meaningless to them.” I may have become slightly over dramatic by this point.
“You’re an idiot.” My wife can read me like a book.
“So you want me to call them up in 10 minutes?”
“You sure about that?”
“I don’t know. Ask me again in 10 minutes.”