A Second is a Hiccup and Other Tricks Time Plays

Remember looking at colleges? Thinking about where you’d apply? What you wanted to study? Where you wanted to live? What risks you were willing to take?

Suddenly, this is the Talk of the Town in my world, which is fine, really. We’ve got a high school junior; the time has come to enter into such conversations. Conversations that range from productive to vague to toxic, but they’re there to be had – and have them, we will. One minute, I think to myself, ah, yes. It is time (Lion King reference), and the next I say wait, what? How’d we get here?  The other day, a friend of mine said, “just like that <she snapped her fingers,> and we’re already sending them off to college.” For the record, we’re not. We’ve still got at least another year and a half. Not that I’m counting.

The minute she snapped her fingers, though, I thought A Second is a Hiccup. I mean, really. Here was the perfect opportunity to lament with another parent about the swift passage of time and the loss of our babies to entrance exams, applications, fraternities, meal cards, and degree plans, but all I could think about was finding one of my old favorite books about time. I really am a librarian.hiccup

Or maybe I just needed a gentle reminder that time is time is time. A second is a second (or a hiccup), and all the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years add up in the exact same way as they have for my parents when they raised me and for their parents before them. After 18 years or so of living under our roof and (mostly) with our rules, our son will venture off into the world, and time will still tick by, just as it always has.

A second is a hiccup –
The time it takes to kiss your mom
Or jump a rope
Or turn around.

This is the perfect book to start discussing the concept of time to the wee ones. Man alive, one of the hardest things we can teach our children is the concept of time. What is a second – a day – a week, anyway?

Ask a group of 3 and 4 year olds, and you’re sure to get some pretty interesting – and hilarious – replies. Actually, ask anyone that question, and I’m betting the responses might range from silly to serious to profound to outrageous.

A Second is a Hiccup by Hazel Hutchins is a truly lovely way of starting the process of learning about time. No, it will not transform a child after one reading; the understanding of time is far too expansive than a single picture book. It is, however, a fabulous conversation starter and a way to – at the very least – put different measurements of time into perspective. A minute is more than a second. An hour is longer than a minute, and so on.  Some of this is just vocabulary: what is a day? A week? But, the book nicely attempts to explain how much can go into these increments of time, which I find amusing, if not enlightening. Included in what encompasses a day, Hutchins writes:

Breakfast, lunch and snack and dinner
Play some games and cheer the winner
Draw a picture, read a book
Tell a joke and learn to cook

Just this weekend, I had a full but (I thought) manageable to-do list that, oddly, ended up being edited so a nap could be added. It’s hard to know just how much we can do with a certain amount of time, and children struggle with it just as much as we do.
It doesn’t help, either, that we might tell them “5 more minutes!” as we come to pick them up from a friend’s house – but 25 minutes later, we’re finally wrapping up our own conversation and asking “where are your shoes?” I’m guilty as charged in not being the best role model when it comes to managing time. But that’s just it: if an adult still has time management challenges, doesn’t it follow that kids will, too? Time is a tricky thing.

~5 more minutes till we leave for Katherine’s birthday party!
~1 more hour until bedtime!
~3 more days and Dad comes home from his trip!
~2 more weeks until Christmas!
~4 more months till your 8th birthday!
~1 more year and you can take your driver’s test!
~Another year and a half and you’re off to college!

Sometimes parents will say, “it seems like just yesterday that . . .” But I hafta say, when I read this book, it reminds me of all the seconds that lead up to where we are now.

Seconds of
~ my baby’s fist grabbing a clump of my (then long) hair and pulling.
~ eye rolls.
~ foot stomps.
~ brilliant smiles.
~ high fives.

Minutes of
~ dealing with the most explosive diaper I’ve ever seen.
~ walking from the back door to the car such that we stop to examine every single leaf, bug, acorn, speck of dirt, and crack in the sidewalk along the way.
~ watching her twirl a loose tooth in her mouth, wondering if it will fall out tonight and if so, will the tooth fairy remember to come?
~ waiting in carpool lines, hoping to see a smiling face at the end of a school day.

Hours of
~ holding a croupy child in a steamy bathroom, praying for relief.
~ baseball, volleyball, soccer tournaments in both beautiful weather and in the rain, cold, and heat.
~ waiting rooms, forms, appointments, parties, and drives to a friend’s house.

Days of
~ trying new baby foods, wondering what facial expression would appear with each new jar.
~ figuring out clever ways to make a child take her antibiotic for that nasty ear infection.
~ reviewing spelling words for the test on Friday.

Weeks of
~ being obsessed…obsessed…with Toy Story. Watching it so many times that we still know all the words.
~ reading Harry Potter out loud together before bedtime.
~ reminding him that library day is tomorrow – remember to pack your books in your backpack.
~ practicing lines for the play.

Months of
~ eating the exact same thing for breakfast Every. Single. Morning.
~ return visits to the pediatrician for that pesky and reoccurring rash.
~ learning how to drive.

Years of
~ guitar lessons, Girl Scouts, Karate, choir.
~ school lunches, frozen waffles, ice cream cones.
~ laundry.
~ backpacks and camp trunks.
~ birthdays, trips, memories.
~ excitement, worry, thrills, regrets, love.

No, in fact, it hasn’t gone by just like that <finger snap>. It may sometimes feel that way, but perhaps this book needs to be on the shelf of children learning the concept of time and parents who are wondering where the time has disappeared.

Maybe what I needed is some kind of reassurance that,

Changes come and changes go
Round and round the years you’ll grow
Till you’re bigger, till you’re bolder
Till you’re ever so much older.
And through all the hours and days
As time unfolds in all its ways
You will be loved –
As surely as
A second is a hiccup.

Keep Reading,


Contact me at fplweb (at) frontporchlibrarian dot com

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