The Eight-hour Time-out

Word count: 10192

The friend I’m visiting has a child. Let’s call him “Rob,” since that was almost his name and it’s the name of my novel’s villain. Rob is at that age where he can’t get enough attention. It’s always, “Look at this, Mommy,” when the Tommy the Tank Engine is driving off the side of Sodor Island, or “Look at this, Jemi,” when he’s dug out the battery-powered train and wants to get it into a wreck at the elevated crossroads. The mere mention of naptime or bedtime makes him teary-eyed.

That’s when Rob fires his best ammunition. The daily emergency that is bedtime brings out his inner nutritionist like nothing else can. I quickly identified “I want a glass of milk” as a subtle ploy for attention. Rob’s parents, however, are completely taken in by this sudden interest in cow juice from a child whose beverage of choice is, of course, soda. You know how parents are - they want to believe their child is following in their earthy-crunchy barefoot footsteps when really he’s following in their devious, staying out late teenage footsteps. Now it’s a glass of milk; soon it will be an hour past curfew.

Rob is a cute and, fortunately, cheery child. That’s his excuse for behavior that society does not tolerate from adults. Occasionally he can even occupy himself with Tommy the Tank Engine for some time without interrupting my novel or mommy’s AIM session. As he gets older, one hopes the duration for which he can amuse himself without pestering others will increase. Perhaps by the age of, say, twelve, he will even have something of interest to share with others.

For now, he’s not unlike a cat. Cats can tell when you’re not paying attention to them. The feline mind finds it insulting that you have your own amusements which do not include it; thus the feline body parks itself on your newspaper. A cat, however, does not bawl loudly when pushed off the newspaper. Rob can get quite whiney, as the “I want a cookie” incident proved. Mommy put her foot down for that one and gave him a time-out. I suspect that this time-out concept, so alien to my own childhood experience, works so well because, again, it deprives the child of the attention that makes the little “me me me” engine go.

Then again, it seems very unwise to me to impress upon a young mind that sitting still and being quiet with your own thoughts is a punishment, rather than an ideal. Maybe that’s why he hates bedtime so much - it’s the eight-hour time-out.

2 Responses to “The Eight-hour Time-out”

  1. LizB Says:

    So … you’re not a kiddie person, are you, Auntie Jemi?

  2. Jemima Says:

    I love little Rob, but I don’t idealize him. He’s three and he acts it. I can only defer to his opinion in the matter - he’s fond of me and misses me now that I’m back home. I guess that makes me a kiddie person.