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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABC's and PhD's: Five minutes
April 27, 2010 - 10:03pm

How many five minute intervals have passed me by completely unproductively in my life… I hate to think. (Heck, I’ve had half-hour and hour and day-long intervals be unproductive, too, but that’s another story.) In some ways, five minutes is like a penny – you don’t notice it’s gone, you don’t stop to pick it up, you don’t worry about it. But someone recently suggested to me a five-minute activity that has been completely rewarding every single time I’ve done it. We call it “Special 5”. This is time that I give to my 11-year-old daughter, for just the two of us. We now do it every day, often just before bed. The rules are that she is completely in charge of the five minutes – she thinks of the activity, she gets it ready, and for those five minutes I’m totally hers. I try to pay complete attention to her, listen carefully to what she says. I don’t give any commands or even ask any questions, I just go along with the conversation and praise anything positive about what she is doing or saying to the absolute fullest.

At first, we had trouble keeping our special time to five minutes. This was partly my bias, I couldn’t fathom what we could possibly do in this short a time, and I let things run on. There was more inertia to start then, so days would go by when we didn’t fit special time in together. But now I set a timer, and we stick by it – she’s good about finishing up when the timer dings, and we together put things away and look forward to the next “Special 5”.

Some nice things:

It’s such a short time period that if the activity is not the greatest or doesn’t work well we never feel unsatisfied. Really, the activity is a decoy to spend five quality, positive minutes together. I think my daughter understands this too, at some level. She doesn’t choose to do something complex that will take a long time even though I know she could think of oodles of these kinds of activities that she would love to do. Often we spend the time drawing together, a specific project that she proposes, like “draw an underwater scene” or “you draw the back halves of all the animals I draw”.

No matter how busy we are, we can always find the time and stamina sometime in the day to fit in five minutes. Even when we are out and don’t start until way past bedtime, it’s not a big deal to keep her up five more minutes. Even when I’m tired, or have a billion things to do, or on a deadline, or cranky, or preoccupied, five minutes is almost always doable because like a lost penny, a five minute interval can so easily scoot by unnoticed anyway.

Multiple times now my daughter has said that our “Special 5” was her favorite part of the day. It’s not a big deal, but it is a big deal. Five minutes. That’s a pretty good investment.


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