Unlearning Adulthood: The Truth About Time Outs
“Don,” my father replies, “think of it as moment to mediate. It’s like a timeout. Enjoy it.”
My cousin Don doesn’t like elevators. “They’re too small,” he tells my father, as they opt for the stairs at a hotel wedding reception. “Don,” my father replies, “think of it as moment to mediate. It’s like a timeout. Enjoy it.” This is the most zen thing my seventy-six year old father has ever said. Don chuckles his way down the staircase, and I’m left wondering, what is so bad about a little timeout?
As soon as we’re old enough to misbehave, we are old enough to punish. For most, this punishment comes in the form of a time out.
We drop our crayons, leave our stuffed tigers at the table, and are banished to the corner of the room to cool off, and ponder our misconduct. But if you think about it, a forced pause is exactly what our lives are calling for.
We grow older, and the time outs fade from our lifestyle whether our behavior improves or not. In grade school we get detention, or are held after class. Maybe this gives us time to reflect, or just the opportunity to carve our name into the side of our particle board desk. Regardless it’s a negative association for a positive action: creating space for ourselves.
I’ve never had a timeout. I was grounded once in the fifth grade for jumping on Caitlin Low’s trampoline, in the rain, while recovering from pneumonia. In retrospect, that should have been a sign that I am hardwired against life pauses. The grounding lasted one whole evening in which I bawled my eyes out because I was missing the latest episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, back when you had to wait until summer to catch a rerun. Only my father was cruel enough to disregard the sanctity of TGIF. In that short lived time out, I focused less on my stupidity, and more on the unfairness of my parents. They got this timeout all wrong.
In that short lived time out, I focused less on my stupidity, and more on the unfairness of my parents. They got this timeout all wrong.
If time outs were redesigned as opportunities to come back to ourselves, to really think about our actions holistically—not as “good” or “bad”, “right”, or “wrong,” but whether our actions really align with who we are as humans, then maybe they’d stick around past adolescence. If the timeout matured with us into adulthood, we may not fear moments in elevators, being first to the party, last on the yoga mat, alone on train, because time, out, alone would no longer be a symbol of wrongdoing. A timeout would be sacred.
I’m proposing a world that values timeouts, who’s with me?