Our kids lose it sometimes, like when a toy won’t cooperate, or they have avocado on their hands, or there’s, I dunno, too many bubbles in the tub. So when they’re screaming with frustration, we put them in a time-out in their room—not even so much for punishment but just to give them a quiet moment to pull their shit together.
But lately, I’ve realized that this could be an excellent strategy for adults as well as children. How often have I been about to lose it—or, okay, actually lost it—over some relatively trivial thing? Five minutes alone would do wonders. You’re supposed to do one minute “per year,” which means a two-minute time out for a 2-year-old, three minutes for a 3-year-old, and so on. Below, nine moments when I would have liked to put myself in a 41-minute time out:
1. I’ve finished the dishes, turned around and realized the dirty pots and pans are still on the stove.
2. In the next three seconds, the following words were going to come out of my mouth: “IF YOU CAN’T GET YOUR SHOES ON BY YOURSELF, I WILL THROW THEM ALL AWAY.”
3. I’ve gotten myself ready for work: tights, great outfit, I-mean-business boots, and just as I’m walking out the door someone managed to smear his peanut-butter hands all over my adorable new skirt.
4. When the awesome new day care/preschool opened up a five-minute walk away, I stopped in and asked about fees and had to stop myself from saying, “For one kid? Are these the king’s children? What are you feeding them, caviar?”
5. When we met with a financial advisor to discuss our financial goals, and he looked at the amount we’ve put into the 529 account and said, “Um, what about the next three years of college?”
6. When I finished work in the evening and dragged two starving kids in the door, thinking, “Okay, scrambled eggs is a fast dinner,” but SOMEONE PUT THE EMPTY CARTON BACK IN THE FRIDGE.
7. When I was out with my 5-year-old and he said “I need to poop,” and I said, “Oh, just try to hold it till we get home, honey,” and he pooped in his pants in the car seat and sobbed, and I just wanted to turn back the clock, slap myself and start over.
8. When my kid threw up in the car, all over the seat belt straps, on a pouring-rain day and I was on the side of the highway dabbing at what had formerly been a hummus lunch, but was afraid to let him out of the car, because we were on the highway, after all.
9. When I tried a new recipe that my friend swore would get my kids to eat vegetables, which took an hour to make, and my younger child dumped it on the floor and the older one burst into tears.
Yeah. Let’s make time-outs for grown-ups the newest parenting trend. If anyone needs me, I’ll be back in 41 minutes.