For both the child and the parent.
A time to cool off, regroup, restore, return to one's better self.
I recall saying, firmly, but I hope not with anger in my voice, "I need you to go to your room for a time-out. Now." Sometimes I set the kitchen timer to eliminate the question, "Can I come out now?"
More often than not the time-out solved the problem, eased the tension, and lightened the mood, and ended with hugs.
If you read my last post, you know I am working diligently on the manuscript of my spiritual memoir. I spend many hours of the day at my desk working on it, but sometimes I need a time-out. When I sit staring at the laptop screen or when I reread a sentence over and over again or when 5 minutes playing solitaire turns into 10 or 15, I know it is time for a time-out. I am no longer operating from my best writing self.
It is time for a time-out.
But here's the trick. To really be a time-out, what you do needs to be nurturing and not just a turn to another task awaiting your attention. In other words, cleaning the bathroom, in most cases, is not the best time-out.
My go-to rest stop most often is reading something purely for pleasure. Not for book group. Not for meditation. Not as part of research for what I am writing. Not to become better informed about all the issues of the day that weigh heavily on my heart.
The best companion on my solitary time-outs is a good book, of course. Right now I am reading Willa Cather's The Song of The Lark, and I love its leisurely pace, the richness of description, and the depth of her characters. But I am just as apt to enjoy a new home decor magazine or savor the latest issue of Bella Grace.
Sometimes, however, a time-out means physically leaving the house--and I don't mean heading to the grocery store. A walk. A drive through a neighborhood of interesting houses. Lunch at a new spot. I prescribe a time-out for myself not to check something off the list, but to touch something inside that feels stale or dull or weary.
When I suspect I need a time-out, I ask myself, "Why do you think a time-out would be a good idea right now?"
Sometimes my answer reveals I am avoiding something or feeling fearful or a lack of self-confidence. It is at those times I need to dig in more and face the demon. But sometimes my neck hurts and I realize I forgot to eat lunch and I am just at a good place to stop working.
That's when I blow my virtual noon time whistle and retreat to a time-out.
How do you know you need a time-out and what do you do? I would love to know.