In football games, a time out is for re-grouping, strategizing, managing the clock, drinking Gatorade and sometimes just for messing with the game plan of your opponent.
In child rearing, a time out is to remove a child from his/her cycle of behavior; to teach him/her what is not acceptable through a bit of negative reinforcement; to teach the little one that he/she is not in control. When our now 21-year-old son was in his terrible twos, he threw temper tantrums whenever he didn’t get his way. He would simply melt, wail and flail. I was determined to win, so would pick him up, this solid, heavy, sturdy toddler boy and deposit him in his room. I told him the same thing every time, “I know you are upset. When you can calm yourself, you can come back out here with the family.”
To his stubborn credit, he’d try, oh, he’d try coming out to tantrum some more. I just kept depositing him back in his room to calm himself. Each time, it got worse. Bruised from his well-placed kicks, I’d be covered in his snot and tears and some of mine. He’d pinch. He’d try to bite. He threw toys at the door a few times. I just stayed on message and kept delivering him to time out.
One day, just like that, he stopped with the tantrums. Fast forward 19 years, he is now a 6’2″, 195 lb. young man; still quite sturdy and strong; a happy, productive, funny person who knows how to calm himself. You’re welcome world. Thank you, time out.
Time outs work. Time outs are effective. We all need them.
In the last few weeks, several factors in my world converged to create a need for a time out for me. In retrospect I now understand it was the “perfect storm” of:
–The medication I am on to prevent a breast cancer recurrence, Tamoxifen.
–The medications I was on to counter the side effects of Tamoxifen.
–Good things, like a packed fall schedule, high school and college football games, friends, social events, jobs.
–Stress-being a pastor is a tad bit stressful. I don’t want to whine but we pastors tend to absorb a lot of pain–people’s personal pain, institutional pain, pain meant for God, plus the painful sweetness that comes with trying to live out faith in community.
–Hormones-imagine throwing in the mix a whole pile of pre-menopausal hormones which Tamoxifen is trying to shut down while my body hard at work making more hormones. No kidding, I have a little hormone tsunami inside of me at all times.
-Our dog-our vet told us a few weeks ago that our Golden Retriever, Rusty who has been a part of our family since 2001, has Canine Sarcoma (Doggy Cancer) and only has a short time left to be with us.
–Mix in a day or two of not eating right and some insomnia.
I cracked. And, a time out on the field was called. I didn’t call it. I couldn’t even see that I needed it. I strongly felt that play should continue as usual. I was the sturdy two-year old bundle of tears, angst and snot who kept reappearing in the family room. Time out for re-grouping, breathing, finding a new strategy, re-calibrating. Time out.
Yesterday, in many parts of our nation, the sleet, ice and snow created a national time out. We stopped. No school. Flights cancelled. Holiday parties called off. Christmas parades and other elaborate holiday events stopped in their tracks. Time out for weather.
Our younger son, an over-programmed high school student, found a sled in the attic and played outside for hours. I sat by the fire, writing, reading and reflecting on why we need time outs. We made soup, checked on those we loved, played cards and snuggled in. Now we are on day two of this time out. “Shouldn’t we be doing something productive?” we ask ourselves. Turns out, we don’t. It is okay. Our work today is to be in time out.
We are all more fragile than we think. We are all prone to cycles of too much–too much emotion, activity, trantrum-ing, stress and busyness.
Sometimes we need to hit pause; call for a time out; suspend time and our activities for a while. Rest. Regroup. Re-strategize. Calm ourselves.
Thank God for the time out.