“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
My daughter has become quite the clock-watcher of late as she has been learning about “time” at school. She is particularly fascinated by clocks with roman numerals and was spellbound when I managed to produce an old Mickey Mouse alarm clock whose ‘hands’ clunked over as each minute passed. She recently took money out of her bank account and bought herself a large, fluoro lime green watch. It is quite hideous, but she’s in love.
Her new-found love of time makes me feel sad and reflective about just how quickly time actually does march on. Until recently she was happily clueless about the hours passing. Watching her grow and play, oblivious to the pressures and constraints of deadlines and the rush of everyday life, confirmed to me, as a mother, that I must be doing something right. You see, it’s my view that for young children, time is obscure and virtually indefinable. It’s like a form of magic.
They have little concept of the difference between a minute, half an hour, a day, a week. And certainly, for really little ones, understanding the difference between a month and a year is impossible.
Young children mark the time by significant events in their life (as do most adults) such as when Mummy goes to work, when she comes back, when they are hungry, when the sun comes up and when it goes down. However, they are not truly understanding time, rather observing events that take place regularly one after the other.
A birthday might be much-anticipated, but the time taken getting to that magical day is just a blur of other events until you tell them that today is their “big day”. And forget trying to explain the finer points of daylight saving to a three-year-old or exactly how long it’s going to take to get there on a road trip.
Instead, I encourage you to celebrate their perception of time. In a world of stress and rushing here and there, whenever possible, a young child shouldn’t have to worry about time passing. As long as there is plenty of time to play, sleep and eat, at this stage of their lives they will benefit tremendously by having big slabs of free time to daydream and observe at their own speed.
So, I’m going to continue to make time to take my daughter outdoors to observe how Mother Nature expresses time. The beauty of a sun setting followed by its inevitable counterpart – sunrise; the passing of clouds into the horizon; the rising of a full moon; a spider busying herself in a web; leaves falling from trees followed not long after by buds, blossoms and beautiful new growth; the ebb and flow of ocean tides; the birth of a lamb; the death of a gnarly old gum tree and you know what? I bet we don’t refer to the lime green wristwatch once.