The Wrong Kind of Time

Whenever I read someone tweeting that they are too busy, a tiny part of me thinks “well, get off Twitter then!” before remembering, guiltily, that my own timeline would brand me a liar in the eyes of anyone to whom I ever suggest I haven’t managed to find the time to do a particular task. Admittedly, they would have a point about the tweets pre 8.30am, which invariably end in us running out of the door a few minutes later than we should, or perhaps those in the run up to bedtime, when I have frankly lost the will to live. The others, though; the sporadic braindumps and exchanges over the course of the day: do they actually represent a waste of time which could otherwise be spent doing something useful?

It strikes me that “time” isn’t a very helpful concept. We talk about finding it, or managing it; saving it, even, as if it can be thriftily banked up and withdrawn at a later date, when the truth is that often it’s not in our control at all.

The Inuits have their apocryphal fifty words for snow; perhaps we need the same for time, especially when children are involved. Just as you couldn’t make a snowman from a few flakes in the morning, a brief flurry over lunchtime and some promising-looking clouds in the late afternoon which turn out to bring nothing but drizzle and a nasty wind, so it can be hard to stitch fragments of time together over the course of the day to produce anything of value.

So, perhaps, there should be a word for the thirty minutes after the schoolrun which the 2 year old is usually happy to fill with CBeebies, but which sometimes he needs instead to be a prolonged cuddle after Too Much Pushchair.

For the hour’s nap, desperately needed by both of you, when he wakes the moment the laptop is plugged in, or after twenty minutes and just wants to snuggle.

The time you’d set aside to do some chores while he drew next to you, which a nappy incident sabotages into a full outfit change and an unscheduled load of washing.

The quick household tasks which take five times longer because “Can I help, mummy?”.

Or, conversely, the wait outside the school gates when he’s fallen asleep.

The sudden independent session in the sandpit where you’re not required for the best part of an hour.

The nap which overruns when you’re left wondering whether to wake or leave and if it’s worth starting something new.

None of it is bad, exactly, it just turns the day into something elastic and frustrating and unpredictable. It probably is too self-evident to need saying, but I’ll say it anyway as a reminder to myself, and everyone else in the same position, and those who look on and see a lot of noise for very few nuts* that actually, sometimes, it doesn’t take much to be snowed under. Or out of time.


* the Spanish for “much ado about nothing”, but a phrase I’ve always loved!


2 thoughts on “The Wrong Kind of Time

  1. Love this, it is exactly this. I had such grand plans for today which have been way laid by something I heard on the radio, the washing machine not working properly, the person on the phone not being the person who actually does the job and so answers but actually doesn’t know. And then stumbling over things like this on twitter! Soon my child will be home, he may want my undivided attention or he may not who knows!

    1. Obviously it is really the wrong kind of time, since it’s nearly a month and I haven’t replied (sorry!) It is just unbelievable, though, isn’t it, how time gets eaten up with just stuff.

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