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A Timeless Lesson

August 15, 2004

From time to time, I like to provide you with examples on how to teach boys.
As I was walking past the office, Trajan, five years old, joined me to chatter about what five-year-olds chatter about. After a couple minutes, he suddenly stopped and asked, “Is it five minutes yet?” I laughed and said, “That depends on when the five minutes started.” Again he asked, “But is it up yet? Daddy told me to be back in five minutes. Is it up yet?”
In my great maturity and wisdom, I patiently answered, “Five minutes has to have a starting point in order to terminate at a given point. If you can’t tell me when it started, I can’t tell you when it is up.” He looked at me in exasperation and, I think, a measure of pity, and said, “Don’t you know when five minutes is up?” So having a great reservoir of answers, I stooped down in the driveway and drew a line with a rock, explaining, “Time is like a line; it is endless.” That sounded pretty wise to me. Then I drew a line intersecting the time line at a right angle and told him that this is the beginning of five minutes, and then drawing another intersecting line about two feet further down, I said, “And this is the end of five minutes.” Punctuating with the rock, pounding the line, I said, “A given period of time must have a beginning so it can have an end. If you don’t know the beginning, you can’t know the end.” There. I had explained it simply, with a visual aid. I was satisfied and was sure he was enlightened. I have an ability to get on the kids’ level. When I looked up, he was just staring in wonder, and in a tone of dismissal, he said, “Don’t you know when five minutes is up?”
“No. . . I guess I don’t. Do you have any easier questions, like, where do babies come from?”

Michael Pearl

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10 comments on “A Timeless Lesson”

  1. When I was about five my brother sat down on our swingset and explained to me how long a minute was. He said to me something like, it starts NOW, then in silence (he must of been counting one Mississippi , two, Mississippi, three....) I would ask impatiently. " Is a minute over?" "Not yet" "Now?" "Not yet." "Has it been a minute yet!?" No.....NOW, there that was one whole minute. I will never forget that little lesson. I think he told me how many seconds that was as well. 😀

  2. I disagree with the statement made by Gram.

    My oldest son, who is only five, understands this concept of time. Now, my four-year-old would just stare blankly with total confusion.
    My point is this: every child is different and it disappointing when people dismiss the abilities and capabilities of a child because of their young age.

  3. I agree with JR. If we don't start teaching our children when they are young when and how do we expect them to understand when they are old? No matter what the subject is we must start when they are young and build on previous experiences. He may not have understood it now, and its is very amusing to see his exasperation with you, he will remember it as he ages and it will click eventually.

  4. As a teacher, I would also like to disagree with the statement made by Gram.
    We are taught that 5 year olds are too young to understand the concept of time, but this assumption discounts individual ability;however, if it could be proven unequivocally that no 5 year old possessed this ability, there would still be no acceptable reason not to expose them to the concept.
    It is generally accepted that babies do not understand the spoken word, yet we adults make conversation with them as if they do. It is in this manner that our infants learn to use words and to communicate.
    Holding the child accountable for understanding the concept too early would be unacceptable, but exposing a child to abstract ideas will never harm them.

  5. Mabey you should have asked him if he knew when 5 minutes was down....mabey semantics is important to 5 year olds...but the more I think about it the more I like your answer brother.

  6. I also strongly disagree with Gram. I see so many teenagers today that were treated with that exact attitude when they were 'too young' to understand, and guess what... they are constantly complaining that everything is too hard to understand now. And wouldn't you know, everytime you ask them a question, hoping for a detailed answer, all you get is "yes" or "no". Talk to your kids like they are intelligent sponges, off to change the world with strong, confident Biblical philosophy. After all, we would have to wait until they were at least 13 years old to even read them the stories of the Bible if we were wanting them to have 'sufficient comprehension'!!!
    I hope I've made my point 🙂

  7. Lol! This exchange had me laughing out loud! Isnt that how it really is sometimes? We think we have that 'ability' to be on the same level as a child, and yet we still come up short! I really enjoyed this 'lesson' though. We should take opportunities like the one presented to teach our children, and if they dont understand it right then, oh well. Maybe the next time around!!

  8. I believe Mr. Pearl was observing an interaction that we have all encountered with our children. I get the humor. Sometimes I forget that my daughter is 15 months younger than my son because they are almost the same size. I will expect things from her that her brother was not doing at her age. It happens, and even with my son I will find myself bewildered that her does not comprehend things that are so logical to me. I get that same look, like "Poor Mama, she's lost her marbles"! Very literal!