Find a good stopping spot

For years we've used the instruction, "Find a good stopping spot, and get ready for snack," in the preschool class. The children didn't have much trouble with the concept. The instruction meant that they didn't have to drop what they were doing that very instant, but it wasn't a good time to start something new. Older students involved in more complex projects could ask to leave their work out to resume after snack. The goals were a nontraumatic transition and preventing a traffic jam of hand-washers at the sink.

This year's class doesn't get it. They wander the classroom in search of a magical place to stop and sit down for snacktime. I keep searching for a good way to demonstrate the concept.

Obviously, the expression often refers to a location. When the kid in the backseat gets that queasy green look, the driver knows "a good stopping spot" means the very first point to pull off the road without going into the ditch.

Just as often, "find a good stopping spot," means a point in a process. I'm going to stop for a caramel after I sort the bills into stacks, but before I write the checks. Or maybe two caramels and a fresh pot of coffee...

I'll check my email when I get to a good stopping spot with this blog.

I'll help you with your homework when I get to a good stopping spot making supper. Right now I've got to get the potatoes into the oven. Otherwise we won't eat until midnight!

Perhaps parents don't use this expression now. Do kids believe parents are perpetually interruptable? Maybe kids' one-on-one time with their parents is frequently interrupted by cell phone calls. Maybe they don't see their parents doing tasks that should not be interrupted.

My mother sewed. Sewing, from a kid's point of view, involved holding sharp pins in your mouth, squinting, glaring, and occasionally muttering under one's breath. We learned from an early age to recognize whether Mom was at "a good stopping spot." Likewise, one doesn't interrupt a grown-up using a plunger on the toilet of a one-bathroom house. That would leave a whole family wandering in search of a magical place.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

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