Monday, October 5, 2015

Time out

Growing up, I shared a cul-de-sac with four families' worth of kids, our own version of The Little Rascals. We played fiercely. Our competitive games were fueled by a na├»ve sense of idealism, in which every soccer goal counted and you risked your own capture to "release" your teammates from the big oak tree, where they were guarded by someone from the other team. We followed the rules, often brokered amongst ourselves minutes before starting. More than a handful of us grew up to be doctors and lawyers, but our fastidious adherence to the rules ran deeper than our natural predilections.

The rules made sure we stayed in bounds, forcing us to find creative ways to run / pass / tag / hide, depending on the game. And the rules granted us permission to yell time out. We didn't abuse that privilege, implicitly recognizing that - like in the "boy who cried wolf" fable - it was up to us to preserve the sanctity of those magic words.

Whatever happened to time out in this place called adulthood? Perhaps it was less the actual pause and more the possibility - a chance to say, "hold on" and "let's re-group" - that allowed us to invest so fully in the game as children.

I know that calling time out won't unpack the boxes at home or wash the dishes in the sink; time out was never allowed as an avoidance strategy, even back in the cul-de-sac. And yet I can't seem to figure out the grown-up version of this childhood tool, a way to say "we need to figure this out together" with dogged optimism.

I say we bring it back.

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