Friday miscellany: Time is the secret ingredient

I go back and forth on whether I am a patient person. My default mode is to do things quickly and move things along, but I can stick with things for the long haul (book writing, for instance, or with a daily discipline such as my Shakespeare project).

However, over and over again, I do see that time — as in, having lots of it — is the secret ingredient in many things. I wrote earlier this week about my inner editor working something out at 3 a.m. I had written a draft of something a while ago, knew it wasn’t working but didn’t really see how I was going to fix it. I had a reasonable amount of time before I had to do anything with it, though, and sure enough, some fixes eventually presented themselves.

In a completely unrelated matter, this is what is happening with Project Potty Training. My youngest kid is starting preschool this fall. He meets the 2 years 8 months cut off and he will really enjoy the social environment. But it is a preschool, not a daycare, which means that he needs to be potty trained — and 2 years 8 months is a bit on the young side for what my kids have managed to achieve. So…I started early and have just been giving it a lot of time. Things were very sporadic in terms of potty success at the beginning. But now, about two weeks before school starts, he seems to mostly get it. And we’ve still got two weeks to keep practicing!

(Side note: I bought a lot more 2T pants with elastic waist bands. I realized somewhere in this that there is more to being independently potty trained than just actually going — you have to get your own pants down and up too!)

Anyway, I know some people claim to thrive on tight deadlines, and get a rush from doing things last minute. It does have a focusing effect. But not having intense time pressure allows you to keep working at stuff, and take a break, and come back to it, often with new insights and fresh energy. I think this is why I get frustrated sometimes when my work hours get curtailed a lot. I like time to play around with stuff.

In other news: I am potty training one child and signing another up for a defensive driving course! This is what happens when you have five kids very far apart — and maybe is a related point to time being a variable to consider. Starting my family on the somewhat youngish side meant I had five kids without them being totally stacked up on top of each other. Babies are challenging whenever, but it feels like having five kids under the age of 8 or so would be more challenging than this version….

My Medium column this week looked at How to Make Good Times Last a Little Longer. Long time readers know I love the concept of “lingering” — it was even a chapter in Off the Clock — and our long summers that last into September always conjure up that word for me. I can see some early evidence of fall and yet it is still summer. This year we don’t have any big Labor Day trips planned, and in the past we’ve sometimes been places (Colorado, Maine) where the altitude or latitude makes early September truly feel like fall. Even so…

(That said, the kids are getting a bit feral at this point in the summer. They will be ready for school to start. I bought new backpacks for the 10-year-old and 7-year-old — a camo LL Bean one for the 2nd grader and a pink sporty Adidas number for my daughter.)

Before Breakfast episodes this week included tips on “How to help yourself relax” and “In praise of book reports.” It turns out that writing the equivalent of a grade school book report (here’s what I remember happened…) is a good way to remember content!

We have cousins visiting this weekend so there will be a lot of kids in this house! Plus I’ll attempt a long run and meeting a friend for drinks.

Photo: Late summer flowers

10 thoughts on “Friday miscellany: Time is the secret ingredient

  1. I’m curious what potty training method you use! My son is 2 years 5 months and my friend suggested asking him every 5 minutes if he has to go to the potty. I don’t think I can do it without going crazy lol. Tips?

    1. @Jenn N – there’s no formal method. Basically, if you don’t have to achieve potty-trained status in a short amount of time, you can just have the kid sit on the potty relatively frequently (every 5 minutes is excessive – we asked at transitions, and encouraged every few hours). For a while we were giving a Skittle every time he tried but he didn’t seem particularly motivated by that. Since the kid is still wearing diapers/pull-ups, there’s no real pressure – if they need to be changed, so it goes, but you keep trying and eventually they pee in there and then you praise them lavishly and eventually they keep doing it, and at some point they figure out pooping in the potty (more challenging, since it happens less often, so less practice time!). You praise excessively for that, etc. Then we started putting him in very cool Lightning McQueen underwear for a few hours. Keeping Lightning McQueen clean and dry is the goal!

      1. Thanks! I knew you would have a more chill method that I could relate to! Weirdly he’s been better about going number two on the toilet (I think he likes to see it, ha!) but definitely not there with pee yet.

    2. This is roughly the method we’ve used. Spoiler alert- they aren’t fully potty trained in 3 days. But in my experience so far (3 kids and counting all trained by 2.5) it gets the bulk of the accidents over with in a short time frame. My kids have been reliably in underwear by the end of 3-4 days. We don’t push nighttime potty training and use pullups for long drives.

      1. I second the two day naked bottom , pump ten full of juice method, skip the pull ups. It worked well for us when he was just over 2

  2. I really liked your post and your medium column. A lot of the productivity tips that come my way suggest minimizing class prep time so I can more time on writing articles, but I like taking my time to think about my content and teaching. I get that peer reviewed articles are supposed to be put currency, but I also want to enjoy my job, and that’s one part I want to enjoy instead of rush through. I am also trying to get more comfortable with mostly prepped is good enough, instead of aiming to get things perfect before the start of the semester. I know I’m just going to tweak any way, so it’s wasted time to get things perfect for week 10 now. But it’s not easy to get comfortable with that feeling; it takes practice. I often feel anxiety, like “if I can just get this perfect, everything will be ok. Then I’ll have enough time later when it gets busier.” That was probably true at one time, when I was in a more precarious employment position, but the cost of getting things perfect is too high now. There’s only so many summer days I have left, and only so many weekends to hang out with my kid while he still likes hangout with me. I just have to have confidence that my future self can handle a mostly prepped course as the semester gets busy.

    1. Yes, me too! And sometimes I use lecture writing as a form of writing procrastinating. Writing articles is HARD but prepping a lecture is satisfying, but not too taxing. I like to run two weeks ahead of schedule, but more than that is a sign I’m avoiding something.

  3. Congrats on Henry being mostly potty trained! We tried to potty train our oldest right around when he was turning 2 – and at the start of the pandemic. We were all home and the book I bought (The Oh Crap method) said 2 was a good time to start so I figured then was a good time since we weren’t leaving the house. Oof was it a DISASTER. We threw in the towel after 5 days. It will be interesting to see when #2 is ready. We don’t have the pressure of needing him potty trained for school, though! He goes to daycare and they really focus on potty training in the 2.5-3.5yo classroom. The oldest was fully trained very quickly a month after turning 3. But I’m hoping the 2nd one learns from big brother and is motivated to do it earlier. We’ll see. But since we use cloth diapers I’m very much looking forward to being done. It hasn’t been bad washing them, but I will be happy to be done with that task forever!

    1. @Lisa – it is going to be something to be done with diapers! I had 6 months off between kid #3 and the birth of kid #4. And I had about 1.5 years between #4 and #5. But other than that…many many diapers for many many years.

      I would normally not be pushing it at 2y 8m but he is excited about school, I’m pretty sure he’ll enjoy it, and this is the price of entry. So hopefully not too many accidents!

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