On why #5 got a stopwatch for Christmas


We had an impromptu Black Friday party at my house with a bunch of people that I like but don’t see nearly often enough.

#5 was the youngest person there. As you might imagine, he hit a wall where he had a shitload of energy to burn off and no way to do it. The open spaces in our house were full of glassware and adults. Neither of those are on a little boy’s Top Ten list of Favorite Things, so I made a suggestion.

Me: You look like you need to run around the house. Outside.

He gave me a look that was half-smile and half-eye roll. He knew exactly what this was about, but he likes running. He thinks he’s fast.

Me: Whaddaya say?

#5: Will you time me?

I tried to find a solution that didn’t require my participation.

Me: I’ll time you by the clock on the stove.

#5: How would that even work?

Me, sighing: I’ll get my phone. I’m pretty sure it has a stopwatch on it.

I set up at the back door with the stop watch function up on my phone.

#5, poised and ready: How many times?

Me: How about three?

#5: Three?!?! How about two?

Me: Okay, two.

#5: Good. Okay.

Me: Ready, set. . . Go!

He is pretty fast. And god bless him, he doesn’t do anything half way. Except maybe eat vegetables. He’s not a half-assed kid, in spite of his stepmom.

He came around from the second lap and I hit stop.

Me: 38.4 seconds

#5, breathing hard: That’s two-point-two seconds over my record.

Me: What’s your record?

#5: Seventeen seconds.

Me, taking a minute to catch up to his math: Oh.

We switch to one lap. He gets closer each time but setting a new record eludes him. He brings me outside to verify his route, asks if certain shortcuts are permissible.

He keeps running.

I keep timing.

After about twenty minutes I tell him that I’m going in to spend time with our guests, because I never get to see them.

#5: Can I keep running?

Me: Of course.

#5: But how will I time myself? How will I know if I broke my record?

We look at each other. We look at my phone. This is the only way I’m going to get a semi-interrupted visit with my guests, including my mother, who lives far away. But handing my phone over to a nine-year old boy so he can time himself running laps outside around the house seems ill-advised.

#5: I promise I won’t drop it.

And he gave me that super-cute, hopeful little boy look and I handed my phone right over. Had I had my wallet and car keys on me, I would have given him those too, and all my chocolate.

I went inside and joined the rest of my family.

He kept at it. I didn’t exactly get uninterrupted time with our guests, but I got time with them. #5 kept coming in to tell us his times and to ask our opinions on potential new routes. He began timing himself running around different obstacles, going on other parts of our property. He asked if he could run around the house backwards but since there are stone steps involved, we nixed that idea. He brought me out again to show how fast he could run up and down the hill and he slipped and slid the whole way down on his butt.

He did not let go of the phone.

My phone has an order of operations that is based solely on how much it can annoy you by interrupting what you’re trying to do. Incoming texts, missed calls, what have you- it makes sure to show you the least important information first in a way that makes it so you can’t get back to what you were trying to do in the first place.

Apparently, the stop watch function is not immune to this.

#5, running into the living room, completely out of breath: Oh, man, I can’t believe it! I was about to break my record and guess what happened? Somebody texted you!!!!

This happened three times before he finally gave it up. He gave me my phone back and sat quietly playing games with his sisters the rest of the afternoon.

Because he was tired.

Which, after all, was the whole point.


25 thoughts on “On why #5 got a stopwatch for Christmas

  1. Ha! God bless him. I would have been asking for the route to the nearest martini.

    So glad you got to spend time with family/friends, AND keep your phone intact!

  2. You’re a genius. Seriously. My mom did the same thing with my brother and me when she wanted the garden weeded. She’d pit us against each other to see who could pull the longest root. Clean in no time…

  3. I love it! SO inventive. I must use that one. But I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to hand over the shiny new IPhone.

  4. My wife and I have also tried timing the kids at different activities to try and get them out of hair. Unfortunately they seemed to just keep coming back. And coming back faster and faster as well.

  5. a great trick from the Un-named Parent Book. I always wanted one of those activities that they’d play by themselves for a while (Here’s a pile of Legos, Build a Giant). but it never worked. Having an audience was the most important part of all activities, I discovered

  6. You’re as funny as I remember! Sorry I haven’t been around much lately – to say the least – but I just can’t find the time. I really wish I could; your life rocks!

Comment. It gives me a reason not to clean my house.

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