Kiddos and Time

We’ve touched on this before, but since I’m being driven insane, I’m going to treat you to this again.

Children have no sense of time.

Kiddo#3 was culled from his preschool classroom (mixed-age) along with all the other five year olds, and was allowed to tour his new classroom for next year. Kindergarten.

You remember kindergarten, right? That terrifying torture chamber where the teachers wield machetes and you’re forced to do horrific things like stand in line and raise your hand to talk? Well, in order to prepare the children for the pain, the teachers give a twenty-minute tour of the classroom.

Kiddo#3 returned from this tour all excited: he needed a lunchbox! In kindergarten, you need a lunchbox! Can we go get a lunchbox? Before he went to kindergarten, could I get him a lunchbox? Oh, and by the way, he needed a lunchbox!

And also, lunch was going to be a salami sandwich, a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, a banana, some crackers, a juice box, a bottle of water…

It wasn’t until twenty minutes before school the next day that I looked into his tear-filled eyes and realized this was serious.

I said, “Honey, kindergarten isn’t until September. After summer.”

He insisted, trembling, that I was wrong. That today, he needed a lunchbox. That otherwise he would starve. That he needed a salami sandwich, a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, a banana, a juice box, a bottle of water, a carton of milk, some crackers, some celery, and a hard boiled egg.

Let me stop the tale for a moment to point out a couple of things:
1) he does not eat that much for lunch at home.
2) kindergarten is a half-day program, so he isn’t going to eat lunch there
3) that long list was probably a list of possible snacks, not a mandatory table of contents
4) and by the way, kindergarten isn’t until September

I did the most responsible and intelligent thing I could: I said, “Sure.”

I made him a lunch, although not as ambitious a lunch as he’d outlined. I provided a juice box. I put it in a paper bag. I tucked it into his backpack.

And I drove him to school thinking, “Mrs. D is a trained, certified professional. Plus, she’s paid to deal with this.”

On hearing the situation, Mrs. D said, “Oh, Kiddo#3, kindergarten isn’t until September!”

Her persuasive argument swayed his convictions. You can see why preschool teachers pull down the big bucks.

The lunch returned with me. The kiddo stayed at school and had snack.

Now if only I can get Mrs. D to tell him “no, we’re not going to the beach today” and “I asked you to wait five minutes for your milk; that’s not forever.”


  1. capt_cardor

    I have two nine year old adopted daughters from China. The youngest has been in the U.S. with us for a little more than a year. As a resident of a chinese orphanage for all of her life, she never developed a sense of time passing. One day was the same as the next, indefinitely. Nothing ever happened. Nothing ever changed.

    Now at nine we are preparing her for school. She never learned the days of the week in chinese and is having trouble understanding them in English. She asks how long until something happens, then says “Is that a long time?” No matter whether it is one hour, one day or ten days.

    We hope that changes soon.

    “How long will that be? Is that a long time?”

  2. cricketB

    We count sleeps, or cross days of calendars, or say the alphabet, or show “when the long hand gets to”. It’s not a skill that we’re born with.

    I’m amazed how few adults have a grasp of “five minutes”. I sometimes set my watch to beep for that, just to keep my time sense accurate.

    I still get caught with “two weeks till Father’s Day” means “Buy and wrap present at earliest opportunity — like NOW!”

  3. Ken Rolph

    In Australia we also measure time by sleeps. Seems to make waiting manageable for children of all ages.

    If you are ever in a situation where a group has to maintain a minute’s silence you will experience it as a much longer time than you expected. Time is a very flexible thing.