Five Minutes

For the last couple of weeks, every night some time between eight and nine, I’ve been sitting down one-on-one with my kids just to listen to them. The first night, it was amazing. Each of my daughters opened up with floodgates of emotions. We cried together.

We bonded. Then the timer went off. “Our five minutes is up!” We wiped away our tears and hugged. We moved on.

While the girls have embraced the attention, my 14 year-old son just lay there, refusing to talk. “We talk all the time. Why do we have to do this? Did you read this in some book?”

In fact, I did. The book is What Did I Just Say by Denis Donovan and Deborah McIntyre. “The Five Minutes” is a tool to get parent-child conversations beyond nagging, logistics, correcting, ya know, the ways parents usually talk to and at kids.

As our five-minute sessions have worn on, the girls have begun to use the time to lobby me for what they want — a new backpack or a trip to Maine. I don’t think that’s the point. They can talk about anything and that’s what they choose?

I believe in small solutions to big problems. A small group of people can change the world. A small amount of time can make a big difference on a project. A one-day-at-a-time attitude can get you through a lifetime of worry. I’m going to keep at it. Like blogging, it only takes a few minutes, yet it clarifies my thoughts.

I love the useful nuggets found in self-help books. I read that self-help books are just as effective as therapy. They’re cheaper; you don’t have to schedule them; and they provide tools for better living. Sure, I’m an intellectual and I love to make fun of how-to books (Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow? No, I do it for money and the love will follow).

Turning my attention, even briefly, to my kids’ agendas instead of my own is very relaxing and informative. The Five Minutes is not a cure-all. But it’s an active way to be present and to let my kids know I care and I’m there. I’m listening.