the five minute rule

My toddler son made a couple of big kid transitions during the past two months while sheltering at home. He outgrew his afternoon nap. He doesn’t need a stroller or anyone to carry him anymore during long neighborhood family walks.  

These milestones were never on the calendar, marked neatly in a box labeled with a specific date and time. They just happened. He definitely didn’t plan ahead for them either, (however, in the potty-training department, I wish he would). The attention span and thought pattern of a 3 year old probably doesn’t include the concept of what’s going to happen five minutes from now. When we attempt to tell him to wait because something is going to happen in two minutes, it’s sometimes a risky move; an invitation for a potential meltdown.   

With everything that has been going on in our world over the last months, thinking with a toddler mindset can be beneficial sometimes. Some of the most stressful moments that I’ve experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic stemmed from unproductive thoughts about something far into the future that I have no control over. It was either that, or I was looking back too far, sulking over silly things that I miss; ways of life and memories that are no longer a reality. 

Last year, when my father passed away, I wrote a post about looking to the future only ten days at a time, to help heal and grow through the grieving process. Now a new adjustment is necessary. Five minutes. The future that may exist in the next five minutes seems easy enough to handle, especially when the answers that I want aren’t there, and it may be quite a while until they come. 

It’s also a very grim and humbling experience to remember that so many people have fought until the end for the next, (or last) five minutes of their lives. Struggles and challenges have taken on such an intense and whole new meaning for everyone: health, life, food, finances, safety.  If a “struggle” involves not having an exact plan for something that is a non-emergency or non essential  situation, waiting for five minutes at a clip is good with me.

My son lives his life and makes his toddler moves based on what’s right there in front of him. He sometimes refers to the past using phrases such as “earlier” or  “last earlier”, when he wants to talk about something that may have occurred a week ago, or even pre-pandemic. At this point, many of us are questioning what day it is anyway, so making less references to the past could be a good thing.

The word “tomorrow” isn’t a high frequency word for my son yet either. Wouldn’t it be interesting to view life this way, even for a small chunk of the day? If tomorrow wasn’t on your radar, but the next five minutes of your future were guaranteed, how would you spend the time? I’m going to ask myself this question the next time I’m stuck in an unproductive thought or worry. Most likely that will be sometime tomorrow, being that today is Sunday. 

Until then…

How do you try to keep yourself focused on the present moment during a global pandemic?     

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