Escaping the Trap of Time Confetti at Preschool

Posted January 12, 2021

by Amy Lemieux

The winter solstice has passed, but ironically, on one of the shortest days in possibly our darkest year, I made an unexpected and welcome mental shift that has made my days brighter. I can nail down the change almost to the moment. Rushing into one of the classrooms in December, I glimpsed a little girl wearing fluffy slippers. Her slippers stopped me in my tracks. Looking around the school, I noticed several students wearing slippers, pajamas, a Batman costume, and a cozy robe. It was not pajama day, but a regular winter day. Notably, each child was deeply engaged in her own chosen activity. This particular girl sat with her friends, intently arranging colored tiles in a wooden frame, occasionally stopping to make an observation. It was the picture of contentment.

 

 

My frantic and fragmented day decelerated and then stopped altogether. Doing one thing while thinking about the next was a trap I had fallen into without any awareness. The phrase “Live in the moment” sounds clichéd, but that day I found it extraordinary that these children’s parents and teachers had made the decision to let the children be so visibly in the present. My suspicion is that the associated adults live like I do; in frantic, splintered moments. But everyone had intentionally made an exception for the children, and it occurred to me that even in the depths of a pandemic when society had necessarily slowed down, I had not. I was still a prisoner to time confetti and our preschoolers, thankfully, were not.

According to Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, “We have more time for leisure than we did fifty years ago, but leisure has never felt less relaxing.” Never have we had more interruptions; this has become our unhealthy normal. Whillans says that while disruptions might take up to ten percent of our time, they fragment our time into five to six- minute chunks of “confetti.” These splintered moments have made our lives less rich and less satisfying.

Reading that article and a little girl’s slippers that caught my eye have, at least for now, inspired me to set my phone down. Since that day, I have cut my phone time in half. The “do not disturb” setting is on much of the time. Like the children, I am finding contentment in focusing on my immediate environment rather than other people’s demands or what I need to do at a later time. While I have not worn my pajamas to school, I freely settled into an exploration of water colors at the light table with little consideration of what I had to do next.