It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Time is a Slippery Concept

“Look at that sky!” Haley stares up at the clouds, thick and oppressive, promising a thunderstorm early in the afternoon.

“I guess we’ll be staying in after lunch.” I scoop some broccoli into each bright plastic bowl as Haley flicks on the dining room lights.

“My daddy come soon.” Zach announces.

“Well, not soon, honey.” Dad will be here in about four hours. In toddler-speak, that is a long time. “First we will finish lunch, then we will read some stories, then it’s nap-time. After nap-time, daddy will come.” We measure time by tangibles around here.

Zach hears me out politely. “My daddy comin’ soon!”

“Nap-time first, sweets.”

Now Zach is puzzled. “I be at my house in my bed inna dark.”

“Well, yes, but night time isn’t for a while yet.”

His puzzlement deepens, enriched by a tinge of exasperation. “Is dark NOW! My daddy come NOW!”

Ahhhh! The penny drops. What does he know of the hands on the clock? It’s twilight! Daddy come NOW!!

© 2006, Mary P

July 26, 2006 - Posted by | Developmental stuff, socializing, Zach


  1. ahhh, the easy life of the daycare provider;-) Us parents get to deal with this daily, but the opposite way round. “It’s NOT bedtime yet. It’s still sunny!” from LMB at 11pm:-)

    Comment by Juggling Mother | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  2. I decided to subscribe to a new magazine called Wondertime. In their first issue, hey had a wonderful article on children’s understanding of the concept of time. The author(s) developed a clock design that is intended to help children better grasp some of the abstract principals of telling time. They put the clock face design (and an explanation of the concepts) on their website as a downloadable PDF so that parents could put the clock together and then place it where the child can see it and use it. I love the whole project but it’s still a little beyond the grasp of my soon-to-be 2 year old.

    Comment by Andi | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  3. Hee.

    That makes PERFECT sense, you know.

    This has happened, so now it is time for THAT to have happened.

    It’s perfectly logical!

    Comment by Sassy Student | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  4. I’ve always told Pumpkinpie I will pick her up after nap and before dinner, too. But wow, that darkness would throw everything off! And I guess it will in winter, too, when it gets dark at 4! how confusing for a little guy. He sounds sharp, that one.

    Comment by kittenpie | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  5. Haha! Quinn does that, too, as soon as the sky darkens for a storm: “It’s naptime? I’m gonna go take a nap?” LOL.

    Comment by Kristen | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  6. I’m really enjoying all of the Zach stories – I relate better, because K is much as the same developmental level.

    And, he’s not far off is he? Dark means daddy – that’s something K would say. Her favourite line is “my mommy come home and you leave, mommy stay wif me!” It’s been that way since mom was gone for a week and I was there 24/7!

    Comment by Angela | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  7. I love Zach!

    My little guy (15 months) has been pointing and clocks and trying to say “clock” (comes out “ca!”) for a few weeks now. So when I spotted a foam play clock-face at Target for $1 I snapped it up, eager to teach him about the numbers and the hands, etc. But the foam clock is more like a puzzle – so wouldn’t you know the entire thing was disassembled and scattered throughout my house before the second-hand on the REAL clock went around once! Now he comes up to me offering little foam numbers at random times. This morning I stepped on “4” as I got out of the shower.

    Mary, I love how parents share their stories with you when you share stories with us. Quid pro quo!

    Comment by KTP | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  8. Around here, time is only understood when it evolves around the garbage truck. “Mommy, garbage truck coming today.”

    “Yes, it comes after lunch time.”

    “After lunch time, garbage truck coming.”

    And then he runs to the window. He has a looooong wait.

    Comment by Mamacita Tina | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  9. I went to the website andi provided for a clock face. Great idea. I would tweak it though, and put pictures of activities the child does at specific times of the day. For 12 I would put a picture of him eating lunch, for 7 I would put a picture of him getting dressed, etc.

    Comment by Mamacita Tina | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  10. Awww, poor Zach!

    Comment by Jenorama | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  11. Jeez, Mary! After reading your post, I felt like I was rewinding conversations I have been having with Baby Girl since Herr left! You have my sympathies!

    Comment by Misfit Hausfrau | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  12. Sounds like he wanted some special daddy time.

    Jamie fusses he can’t get Adam to spend anytime with him now that he’s 14 and a big kid.

    Ahhh I miss those days when we as parents were the important ones.

    Comment by kimmyk | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  13. It makes perfect sense to me.

    Comment by Granny | July 26, 2006 | Reply

  14. Ah yes. That’s how we measure time, too. Except for Girl Terror, who asks at every nap time “Should I sleep till 3? Or 4?”. If I say “4 o’clock today, okay?” she is outraged. HOWEVER! She has no clock in her room. So, why is she asking me this?!

    Comment by AverageMom | July 27, 2006 | Reply

  15. Oh Lordy, ‘telling time’ around our house is DEFINITELY measured by how bright or dark it is. Both naptime as well as bedtime are unimaginable since “it too bright” or “too early” for either! (sigh) I love summer but the fact that it doesn’t get dark until well close to nine o’clock wreaks complete havoc on Jordan’s bedtime. Although I’m sure that even if got dark at six he’d find another excuse not to go.

    Comment by Jennifer | July 27, 2006 | Reply

  16. and this, my friends, is why daylight savings is just another oppression tool of The Man.

    “but kari, yesterday we didn’t have to go to bed until it was dark outside…”

    Comment by kari | July 27, 2006 | Reply

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