Thoughts & Reflections
Time is so fluid. We know this. “Time flies when you’re having fun.” “Time heals.” “I don’t have time.” It’s nebulous. Five minutes waiting for an appointment is an eternity, five minutes with a friend is a blink.
We’ll sometimes use “five minutes.”
When we’re finishing up lunch or playtime, we give children a notice of, “five more minutes.” A child might be resistant to sleep, so we ask them to rest for just five minutes.
Here’s the secret — it’s not always precisely five minutes. So, if it’s not accurate, why do we do this? Is it dishonesty?
When we give children notice, we’re cueing a child that a transition is happening. Don’t be surprised when I ask everyone to line up, because playtime is nearly over. Yes, you still have time to finish your lunch, but it’s very important to focus on your job — eating — because it’s almost That Time.
No one likes to be startled. Without intending or being aware, we’re planning. After I jump as high as I can I’m going to race across the play area. I like to eat in a specific order so I’ll finish my protein, then my vegetables, and then those raspberries Dad bought just for me. It’s jarring to be surprised by a change of plans, even if those plans were only your own. We’re in the zone, enjoying how high we’re swinging, the warmth of the bath water, digging in the rich fragrant dirt and carefully dropping in one seed at a time.
Imagine if a server took your plate before you were finished. Or if your partner turned off the TV right at the last commercial break. Or if your boss closed your laptop as you were writing an email. These things don’t often happen, so it’s hard work to imagine it, but it would probably be quite jarring, startling, I might even have a temper tantrum.
It can be easy to gloss over the concentration, the importance of the plans, the in-the-momentness of young children. We can look at our watch, know the plan was always to leave the park at 5, and say, “hey kids time to go.” We might be irked by the tantrum or cajoling that follows, pleading for “just five more minutes!” We might think, how can you be surprised by this, it’s five, we said we were here until five, what’s the big deal?
Five more minutes is a sign of respect. It’s time to wrap up what you’re working on. A sign, a change is coming! Please don’t be surprised! It’s the indicator light to get more gas soon, rather than coasting off the side of the road completely flabbergasted with a sputtering engine.
Five minutes is also grace. Come sit here and breathe with me for just five minutes. You don’t have to sleep, just rest your body for five minutes. You’ve been playing so hard, come sit in the shade and drink some water, just for five minutes. Let’s take five minutes to play alone.
“Five minutes really isn’t that much. It’s a blink.”
In these situations, it can be the pause that prevents tears, or overwhelm, or some other minor catastrophe. We can see something unravelling, and “just five minutes” can save the day. When too tired or too hungry or too out of cope are peeking out, “just five minutes” is a reset, one that allows a child, or a cranky adult, to save face. It’s a bit like, “I’ll do it because I want to not because you tell me to,” but with more mutual respect. It can prevent a tantrum or a time out, discouragement, tears, meltdowns. It’s space to breathe and to still act the way we intend to, space to still be our best selves.
Five minutes really isn’t that much. It’s a blink. We don’t even have time to read a page, since it takes that much time to find a book and a quiet place to sit. It’s about what five minutes signifies. Mutual respect. Kindness. Compassion. Looking out for one another. Putting aside pride and leaving space for the relationship. Preparation. You’re worth five minutes, you’re worth my time.
Written by:Charlotte Wood