Tuesday, January 20, 2009

1/20/09 Absolute time

I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds that herding two young children out the door to get somewhere on time -- like school -- is utterly maddening. I was going to say "an exercise in patience" but I am far, far beyond patience. No exercise here.

One thing that's been working a little better, for some things, is to give the boys a specific time -- an absolute time, instead of a relative one. Instead of "five more minutes!" it works better to say "at 7:45 it's bathtime!"

Julian can read a digital clock. but he can't do "clock math," like understanding that 6:51 is after 6:50. Or if he does, he doesn't act on it. Gabriel, on the other hand, been adding and subtracting times for many years now, and has a very solid understanding that 6:52 is 7 minutes after 6:45...but he still can't judge how long 7 minutes is.

(Indeed, it's hard for anyone. I read once that adults are pretty good at guessing how long they've been waiting on line for up to about 5 minutes, after that, their judgment of wait time becomes vastly distorted. I thought about that as I was stuck at an intersection at First Street this afternoon, watching light-rail train after light-rail train interrupt my turn at a green. A clock revealed that it was "only" 4 minutes, but it felt like 40.)

So to move the mornings along, I've been telling them, "At 7:45 I take the bowls away, so if you want to eat breakfast, do it NOW." Before you wince at my cruelty, bear in mind that I tell them this at around 7:20 -- they have plenty of time to eat a bowl of cereal if they don't putz around.

Tonight, I was delighted at how quickly and efficiently they whizzed through the bath-pajama process when I stumbled across the (incredibly obvious) new policy that any ice cream that was earned gets doled out after bath. TIMED ice cream: "At 8:05 the bowls go out...and I put them away at 8:10!" Who knew those boys could get through bath and pajamas in less than 40 minutes and without any yelling!

Katrina, for all her faults, isn't a time liability yet. I think I'd trade her nightly dinnertime tantrum (still in full force) for some morningtime putziness, but something tells me I'll regret that wish. She's an expert in taking same-old same-old problems to new heights. But she loves pointing out the numbers on clocks.


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