"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Time Out: In Pictures

It started as a simple request: "Max, before you go upstairs to play, please clean up your project area."

He'd been working on another one of his books: we print out pictures of whatever characters are in his book (Lalaloopsies, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Ponies, whatever). He cuts them out and glues them into a stapled-paper book, then dictates a story for me to transcribe. He's made over twenty books and it's his Most Very Favorite Thing To Do Ever. This book will be based on the "Sugar Rush" racers from the movie Wreck-It Ralph and there were pictures of the girls and their go-karts and tiny scraps of paper E V E R Y W H E R E. Also, glue smeared on the table and crayons, pens, and colored pencils strewn about all over.

And it was nearly dinnertime. I hate it when the house is a wreck and I'm trying to get dinner on the table. I can't breathe. I feel claustrophobic. Sam had just gone upstairs to play World War II with Evan and Molly and Max wanted to join them. As much as he wanted to go, I needed him to clean up his area even more. It wasn't too much to ask.

But these days, by that time of day, it was. He's tired from late nights and early mornings. He's worn out from a full day of cooperative and outdoor play. He's talking about "end of preschool" and "beginning of Kindergarten" stuff constantly. He's hanging by a thread, that deep-feeling, sensitive kiddo of mine.

He furrowed his brow: "No."

I stopped what I was doing and looked him in the eye, "Max, I know you want to play, but you have to clean up first. There will be time to play after you clean up, but not if you waste time now. Get busy."

"NO! You can't make me!"

Oh, yes I can. And, you, my boy, need to take a break.

"Go sit on the steps."


"Yes. Five minutes. Cool down."

And then the defiance and the attitude and the yelling continued to escalate until he had earned himself a 15-minute cool-down instead of five. And then he kicked Molly's milk cup out of her hand and collapsed on the floor in a puddle of Big Emotions.

I carried him over to the steps, handed him a notebook and a pen and said, "Fifteen Minutes."

He glared at me one last, dramatic time before accepting his fate.

At the end of his Epically Long Time Out, we talked. He apologized to me (for the yelling and the defiance) and to Molly (for the kicking and the milk-spilling), I sat with him while he cleaned up his mess. Before he went upstairs to join the game with Evan and Sam, he snuck into the office. He returned and handed me an envelope. Inside were the drawings he made during his Time Out:

Max is Mad

Max is Mad and Max is Yelling at Mommy

Max has to Sit on the Steps While Daddy, Evan, and Molly Get to Play Upstairs

Now Max is Sad

Mommy is Thumbs Up, Max is Thumbs Down

Lesson Learned:
He talked to me about these pictures and I assured him that, even when he is Mad Max or Sad Max, he is still Thumbs Up Max. I love that he can express his feelings so well. I love that he wears his heart on his sleeve. I love that he Feels the Big Feels. I just can't wait for this endless transition to kindergarten to finally be over...not that I'm wishing away our summer before it even begins...it's just that the worries and anxieties of Starting Kindergarten are so hard on these tiny little people. (And their Mommies.)


  1. Once more, your life parallels mine. Our younger two are 5 and 8, but it seems that we still have many of the same challenges you face. Reading about them on your blog gives us hope that we're not alone in all this, and (maybe) not Bad Parents after all.

    That notepad idea is inspired. I think we might try it. Looks brilliant.

    Glad he calmed down eventually.


  2. It's so nice to know that we're all in this together. :) The notepad is the only thing that anchors him to his cool down spot and prevents escalating the problem through continued yelling/arguing/crying. Hope it works for you guys!!

  3. I love this post! You handled this situation like a Rockstar Mom and awesome the idea of handing him a pen & paper in timeout. Love Max's timeout drawings; you should definitely publish them into one of his books!