Elastic Time

It’s recently been hammered home to me how elastic time can be. I’ve suspected it for a while – ever since my husband was supposed to pick me up from work 5 miles from home at 6pm and didn’t leave home until 6pm (this was about 6 years ago and he’s never going to hear the end of it). Man-time is definitely on a different scale to normal time.

But today Toddler Time really hit me. I know children have no idea of time, I knew this before having them. It’s the excuse they give for waking at all hours of the day or night (although personally I’m sure they’ve been to Parent Torture School to get it down to a fine art). The thing I wasn’t prepared for was how elastic their perception of time is.

Example: 3 year old: “I need a wee, I really need a wee. NOW!” We rush off to the toilet, abandoning work in progress, baby, pots of something vaguely home-cooked boiling over on the stove. I help child pull down trousers and pants, expecting him to leap onto the toilet and heave a sigh of relief, as he has obviously been desperate. Instead he becomes fascinated with some pattern on the floor or the way the toilet paper roll spins on the holder. Me: “Daniel? Do you not need a wee any more?” Daniel: “Oh yes I do.” And he carries on gazing around the bathroom searching for the answer to life, the universe and everything. Eventually he gets on the toilet. About 5 minutes after he desperately needed a wee, NOW.

And I won’t even mention getting out of the house for nursery. Now he’s in school nursery, not pre-school, and there’s a proper start time (although his teachers, bless ’em, are so kindly relaxed about it) and it’s almost an Olympic challenge to get both children fed, dressed and a cup of tea down my throat and into the car on time. At this point the Elastic of Time gives up the ghost completely and we move into Slow Treacle mode. Watching him is like watching one of those scenes in panto where the strobe light is on and the actors are playing to it, with exaggerated slowness.

So we’ve established that with small children, as with their fathers, time moves at at least half the speed of the real world. Except that that’s not the end of it. In some ways that would be quite nice. We’d have that cuddly stage for twice as long, he’d be cute and snuggly for longer. Clothes would last for months instead of minutes. But here, time snaps back together with a vengeance and before you’ve blinked, they’re growing out of their clothes, shoes, car seats. They’re not just speaking, they’re stringing together sentences and practically re-writing War & Peace. I keep calling Daniel a toddler, then correcting myself because he’s not anymore. I have to fill out his school application next month. Where’s that time gone? Why couldn’t that move at Toddler Time too? I hear lots of advice to make the most of this time, but it’s impossible because it snaps back and forth too randomly for me to grasp.

Never mind 42, if someone could figure out the secret of Elastic Time they’d have cracked the answer to life, the universe and everything.

10 thoughts on “Elastic Time”

  1. Aww – I remember that so well. It doesn’t change as they get older either. If I hear, “In a minute!” one more time from certain teenagers in this house who then have me hanging on for at least 10 of the little tickers… well, you get where I’m coming from.
    Of course, hubby and Darling Daughter say I have own time too as I’m usually early for EVERYTHING. Better than being late, isn’t it…?

  2. This rings so many bells! I particularly hate the ordeal of trying to get somewhere by a definite time. Torture in itself isn’t it. Wait until you have number 3! (ha ha).

    x x

  3. *laughs weakly* Number 3! ha ha! *sprints for door*

    Actually I would adore a third baby but there are so many reasons not to have one!

  4. Hmmn. Here’s the bad news. Nettie is correct on the teenage thing. ‘Just coming’ can mean anything from 2 minutes to half an hour. Shouting? Doesn’t work. Time for my teenagers is an elastic string which is drawn out to its fullest length, then breaks and pings back in my face with an ‘it’s all YOUR fault, Mum’. Patience is my middle name. Or resignation. I just close my eyes and think of the day when I will be a granny and BE LATE for babysitting!

  5. Something happens in our house between 8.15am and 8.45am, one minute they’re getting ready for school like I’ve told them too, the next Laura is just standing looking at her socks.
    I am a bit guilty of the ‘in a minute’ thing though, they’ve started timing me now. The best thing was once when Poppy asked me to read her a story, I said i would in 5 minutes. She replied, ‘Mummy, I have no idea how long 5 minutes is, I’m only 4!’
    But it’s all going too quickly and I’d like to pause it for a while.
    xx

  6. If I’m not on Toddler Time and I’m not on Teenager Time, does this mean I have no excuse? I can claim Twenties Time for another couple of weeks, but… I may have to concede I’m just disorganised… I have a feeling that when I finally get there, my kids will be hauling me out the door, not the other way around.

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