I recently celebrated my birthday and my oldest son (sweet boy) gave me a T-shirt that says, “In Dog Years, I’m Dead.”
“Ha! You are over 300 years old!” my youngest figured with a burst of mathematical insight. Then he eyed the dog. “That means Chester is twenty-one…Wooohooo! Go Chetty! You can buy beer!”
Although I seem to have a grasp of how canine time is calculated (after all, multiplying by seven, while not as easy as multiplying by five, is still fairly straightforward), I haven’t been able to comprehend what makes my kids tick. The struggle for us to synchronize is a daily effort. Maybe that’s because my children aren’t living on Eastern Standard, Central, Mountain or Pacific Time. They’re on kid time.
If you set your clock to kid time, an hour of TV isn’t nearly enough, nine o’clock is way too early for bed, and Saturday morning, while your parents are still sleeping, is the perfect time to try to cut your own bangs.
On the kid calendar, Christmas is always too far away, summer vacation lasts forever, and your birthday is a national holiday. If you ask my kids, they’ll check their watches and tell you that recess is too short, math class is too long, and all teachers are all really, really old. Even older than me.
In kid time, sitting through an hour-long church service is equivalent to being stranded on a rock in the middle of the ocean for a month. You are hungry. You are starving. “Mom, do you have any Tic Tacs? When will they pass out the little pieces of bread? I’m hungry, I’m thirsty. Will there be donuts at coffee hour? I am starving… I am fading away… I am slipping under the pews… Ahhhh. …”
Likewise, a twelve-year-old boy who is supposed to practice the piano for thirty minutes will race through his piece and declare, “I’m done!” after a minute and a half. That’s because a half hour of practicing the piano in kid time is like an adult spending three hours at a Weird Al Yankovich concert. It is interminable.
Maybe we should be more understanding. As parents, perhaps we should learn to expect a different kind of punctuality from our kids.
For instance, when an adult says, “Do your homework right now,” a child will say, “Okay,” but she will not move. That’s because in adult time, “right now” means sometime soon, like in the next few minutes. But in kid time, “right now” means not until your mother has asked you again and again and again, and then not until she finally stomps into the den, snaps off the television and says, “I said RIGHT NOW!”
I try to accommodate the members of my own household who are operating on kid time, but it’s not easy.
“Can you take me to Shawn’s house?” my son asked at 8am on Saturday.
“Soon,” I said. For me, “soon” means later—after I’ve had a cup of coffee, after I’ve changed out of my pajamas and after Shawn’s parents are conscious.
For my son, Lewis, who apparently has no snooze button on his kid clock, “soon” means now. Right now.
“Are you ready yet? Can we go now? How about now?”
My oldest son also has a clock and it runs on its own sweet time.
“Take out the garbage,” I say.
“I am,” he replies, even though I can see him sitting barefoot at the kitchen table consuming vast quantities of expensive, not-from-concentrate orange juice.
Again, the fact that I am able to see him is not because he is able to bend the time space continuum. It’s because he is on kid time where “I am” means he will … eventually. Maybe.
Kid time starts the second you become a parent and, apparently, just keeps on ticking. Anyone who has ever walked the floor with a colicky newborn, sent a teenage driver out with the family car, waited in an emergency room with a sick toddler or read Green Eggs and Ham over and over and over knows that time with kids can make minutes seem like an eternity and the years pass in a moment. Even dog years.