“We’ll be leaving in five minutes,” I shouted to the kids, who were playing outside as Mrs Adams and I chatted to our friends. In a graphic demonstration of parental timekeeping, we eventually walked out the door and got into the car an hour later.
Can it be any surprise that our children take forever to get out the house in the morning or to get ready for a family day out? If mum and dad tell them they’ll be “leaving in five minutes” and it doesn’t happen for 25 minutes, 35 minutes or even an hour, well, they’re going to take advantage of the situation.
I was talking to a mum about this the other day. I had turned up at her house to collect Helen from a play date and I’d already given my child three “five minute warnings” that we were leaving. In between each five minute warning the mother and I allowed ourselves to get distracted as we chatted about all manner of subjects: My family’s impending house move, snow days and various friendship issues our kids were having with other classmates.
When I gave the final five minute warning, the mum said: “Yeah, that’ll be a parents’ five minutes. They can take anything from 25 minutes to 45 minutes. It’s no wonder our kids never listen to us considering the example us mums and dads set.”
Okay, I’m repeating that quote from memory. It won’t be verbatim, but it’s close enough.
While I like to think I am super punctual and that my “five minutes” means five minutes, I know full-well it doesn’t. I may have every intention of leaving the house in five minutes, but if the kids are playing nicely and everything is quiet, well, maybe I can sneak in that quick phone call or that little bit of ironing before we head out the door.
My kids have definitely worked this out for themselves. They know that five minutes is an elastic period of time. They know they can squeeze in a quick round of Minecraft, play a game of hide and seek or do some drawing before we leave the house.
I recall a comedic occasion from my childhood. We were on holiday in Spain and my stepdad said he’d be ready to leave our apartment in “five minutes”.
It took him a few minutes longer to get ready than planned, just a few, not many. In the meantime, sensing my stepdad wasn’t quite ready, my mother started cleaning the apartment’s windows, a job that took something in the region of half an hour to do. While she did that, my stepdad busied himself doing something else.
My stepdad eventually queried why she was cleaning the windows when he had been ready to leave some time ago. She replied saying she thought he wasn’t ready to leave and so it seemed like a good time to clean the windows. He said he had been ready to leave, but only found another job to do because he thought he’d better wait until she’d finished cleaning the windows.
It was like watching a surreal game of tennis as each parent volleyed their excuse for us not leaving the apartment when we had planned to. We eventually got out the door, late, but at least we had clean windows.
Thinking of my own family unit, there is no one to blame for the poor timekeeping but Mrs Adams and I. Maybe we should get on and do something to improve our elastic time keeping?
Give us five minutes though, yeah? I’m just in the middle of something.