“time out” does not mean what you think it does

Puppy Time OutFor the past three months there’s been a mantra stated by my oldest when I pick her up from school. That mantra is “I got a time out and my friends are not sharing”.

The first time she told me she’d gotten a time out she did have something written on her sheet indicating that she’d been a punk and not slept, but she’s been saying this for months now.

No teacher she has claims to have given her any sort of time out. No punishments are ever listed. There’s only one kid I’ve ever seen that was in what would be considered a timeout scenario (placed in a corner after slugging a girl).

But every day “my friends not sharing, I got a time out”.

Coming from my generation where a time out could have meant being locked in a closet, I have been paying close attention, but I’ve believed the teachers. I also believed that Maggie believed she was getting a time out.

Maggie also believes at the moment that there’s a ghost that bites her finger. Well, actually I can pretty much tell that’s a story, but the time out has conviction even if it’s become rote and practiced when she says it.

I got the girls a little early yesterday. I’d gotten off a bit early and it also appeared it was going to rain so I didn’t do yard work like I’d planned, I just hauled it to get to them before it rains. I really dislike getting soaked picking them up. I also dislike them getting soaked. These car seat buckle times tend to cause that.

When I picked up Maggie she pointed at two girls and said those were her friends. I jokingly asked if they were the ones not sharing and she said yes. They agreed… OK, weird one. She also stated she had a time out. Her teacher said that no, she had not had a time out and Maggie looked at her like she was just obviously mistaken.

I heard in the car a couple more times that her friends were not sharing and she’d had a time out. I asked her to describe her time out and was told that she got put in a time out. This was a loop I couldn’t break and trying to nail anything down with Maggie is kind of impossible. Especially when there’re pretty trees and colors going by and she wants to name everything.

Today I dropped her off and she was in a different room. It’s a room she ends up in occasionally with a teacher she sees for about an hour every day.

I had to make a couple of runs to the car today. Pack of diapers, baby bag, Maggie dressed for book day, all sorts of reasons I couldn’t do everything in one trip. On the second trip as I was walking back by the room Maggie was in, a boy was sobbing incoherently and frantically pointing. I think either someone had hit him or taken a toy. Probably with his age it was a toy taking.

I saw Maggie, she appeared to be uninvolved and I was going to sneak by as I’d already said my byes to her that morning. The boy was still sobbing and talking to the teacher who said:

“OK everybody, time out for a minute”

Then she said it one more time and everyone stopped. I saw Maggie, Maggie saw me, she looked at me as though to say “dude, seriously, this is a time out, I told you I got these every day”.

The teacher made whatever peace was required between sobbing kid and offender (not Maggie,) and the kids went back to playing.

I fully expect to hear that she got a time out today when being picked up.

Now how to convey to her that form of “time out” is not a punishment and to inform us if she actually gets reprimanded. She’s smart, but we’re working with abstract concepts, memory that seems to alternately span weeks, or seconds, and attempting to explain theoretically breaches of toddler protocol.