My son has always taken timeouts very seriously. He sees them as a punishment, for sure. My daughter, well, she’s a different story. While she sometimes grumbles or even screams about timeouts, she also ends up enjoying timeouts in her room as play time. Even worse, being sent to the corner is something not just to resist but to deride with goofy faces and laughter.
So, when I saw this “timeout” sign outside the always fun-to-pass Pat Gail Gallery on North Fullerton, I really thought about the answer to the question in the sign: How did timeout become a punishment?
In football (as far as I understand the game), timeouts are coveted, no? And around Mother’s Day, all the Mamas I know say they just want some commitment-free time alone. And these days, with all the connectivity that we choose to meld with, or feel obliged to cling to, it’s difficult to actually be alone. I mean Alone, as in unreachable – knowing you are unreachable. There’s a certain calm that descends then, in knowing that there won’t be a ding or a ring or a buzz or a wail from the next room. Timeout doesn’t sound like a punishment to me.
But for children, for those still trying to grow connections and identity and safe places and belonging, I suppose it seems like the worst thing in the world. Timeout means being separated from an activity that must be done *right now*! Timeout means being away from the parent or sibling that you don’t know how to apologize to, but you know you want to hug. Timeout means someone thinks you are Bad. Because even if we are careful to say that the action is Bad, not the child, children don’t usually separate actions from people. And really, do we do that for each other?
So, in the spirit of my wise friend Eloiza Jorge, I encourage all of us to take a Timeout the next time you do something that deserves a pat on the back, something Good. Take a walk without your cell phone, read a chapter in a (real) book, just sit and look out the window for a while. I know it sounds hokey, but with all the slick in the world, maybe we can all use a little more hokey.