The clock clicked downward toward the end of the night’s action.
60. 45. 30. 15.
With the victory so clearly in sight, you’d think I’d be celebrating.
Yet there I was, hiding in my bedroom for a few moments of silence. I wasn’t really doing anything. I just didn’t have the energy for anything else. I was perfectly content to stay there until the end.
That’s when I realized it. I was running out the clock on my kids.
For those not familiar with sports, “running out the clock” means you’ve locked up the win. You just need the game to officially end. In football, that means kneeling down instead of running a real play. In basketball, you might hold the ball closer to mid-court until the final horn.
When it comes to children’s bedtime, it means hiding someplace — sometimes in plain sight — in hopes of not hearing another child’s flare-up before it’s time to call it a night.
I’ll throw in the standard parental disclaimer: I love my children, but…
We all have a breaking point. Sometimes you’ve had a stressful day at work. Sometimes you don’t feel well. Sometimes you’re just tired of hearing “I want” when all you want is people to stop telling you what they want.
We have four girls in our house, ranging in age from 4 to 17. There’s an awful lot of drama. I hear the words “hate” and “love” in a lot in conversations, sometimes about the same person within a few minutes.
When I have the energy, which luckily is more often than not, I’ll try my best to sound like a 1980s sitcom dad and explain why we should all love each other.
Sometimes I don’t have the energy to muster that much kindness, compassion and patience, though. In those situations, you focus on the basics. When the kids are fed and the homework is done, sometimes the best possible outcome is to quietly wait for the clock to hit that magical moment when the children begin their nighttime rituals and go to sleep.
I remember being a child and wondering what happened after we went to sleep. I was convinced my parents watched my favorite shows and ate my favorite foods, laughing all the way.
Now I understand better. They likely just wanted a few moments of peace, time they knew wouldn’t be interrupted by some silly argument about something that wouldn’t matter in five minutes. They likely craved silence.
You get a little bit of that when you decide to run out the clock. Maybe I linger in the bathroom a little longer than my biological needs required. Perhaps I spend 20 minutes putting my pajamas on when five minutes would suffice. Maybe I sit in the epicenter of all the chaos and read something interesting to me, completely drowning them out.
In those moments when you’re running out the clock, you rest up. Tomorrow is another day, and chances are good you’ll be fighting until the very last second ticks off the clock.