My latest adventures in babysitting resulted in the first time I gave my nephew Noah a brief time-out. Now, I really don’t know how to do a time-out. I’ve heard the term thrown around and never paid it much mind. I figured it was this magical zone that only adults who didn’t have a firm hand resorted to when things got a little rough. I should have paid more attention.
Let me go back to how it came about. I can take a lot from my niece and nephew, and I’m not any sort of disciplinarian. I’m their fun ‘Unca Al’, who lets them horse around and scream and dance and do all the things that kids want to do. But there are limits, and one of them is when Noah starts throwing things. I can take a ball or two, or a plush backpack, maybe even a small plastic animal, but when a big-ass heavy toy truck gets thrown at me, that’s the limit. And even then, I let it slide twice, but on the third go, it was time for the time-out.
I looked toward the corner where I thought my Mom said they went for this scenario. ‘Shouldn’t there be some sort of holding pen, or box, or padded cell?’ I wondered. I saw nothing. What was going to contain him? Maybe this was a new sort of open-air time-out for a two-year-old, maybe they had graduated to a corner of the couch. It was the only area I could see. I picked him up and placed him on the couch telling him he had a time-out and had to sit there.
The waterworks started immediately. I thought this time-out thing was supposed to stop the crying? What was I doing wrong? I picked up his sister and we walked to the other end of the room. Noah got up and followed us, crying at the top of his lungs. I put Emi down and brought Noah back to the couch, saying he had one minute left in his time-out. He stayed put for a second or two (literally) and popped right back up, still crying. This was not going well. The time-out was a bust. I tried one last time, putting him back on the couch telling him he had to stop crying if he wanted to end the time-out, all the while wondering how many words he actually understood. “If you don’t stop crying, you can’t finish your time out,” I pleaded, and the weakness in my voice was almost laughable. I was sure Emi was smirking the whole time. Finally, Noah walked up to me and I couldn’t do it any more. I picked him up, held him close and told him it was all right. We sat down on the couch and I rubbed his back until his tears stopped.
“Are you going to say you’re sorry?” I asked quietly.
His eyes looked down, and the faintest little ‘Sorry’ escaped his lips. I hugged him closer, rubbing his back, and told him it was okay.
He said it better than I ever could.
A minute later he was rolling on the floor, laughing as I tickled him and his sister. Maybe the time out worked in some small way after all. I wonder if it would work on Andy?
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