How Long is Five Minutes?

I'm sitting in the kitchen, still in pajamas, haven't had breakfast, and am trying to read the last three pages of this book I've had on the go for the past two months or so. Each time I pick it up, I have to skim over the entire thing to familiarize myself with it all over again.

It's a mystery, and though I could save myself the time in this crazy life I lead by reading the last page and finding out whodunit, I don't. I want to read the whole thing.

I imagine someday, to save yet more wasted time, someone will invent a book that tells you the ending before you finish the first chapter, an optional foldout page that sums the whole book up in case you can't fit reading the entire story into your schedule.

You may be wondering why it would take a person--the same person who once tried to actually read the entire Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement--almost two months to read a 278-page novel.

Well, I'm not just any person. I am the guardian of our future, don't you know. I'm the shaper of things to come; I'm the volume button behind the voices of tomorrow. I'm a stay-at-home mother of two: ages three and a half, and one year. And, along with my not-so-common-law hubby, I also run a home-based business, which adds to the chaos, but on the flipside, pays the bills.

Anyway, back to my kitchen. There's my one-year-old taking cans from the cupboard and throwing them on the floor. He's having a good time, so why stop him? Never mind that some of those cans hold soda and someday soon will become heart stoppers to the unsuspecting who open them. He's making a real mess that I'll have to clean up. Just as soon as I read these last pages. I'm getting to the nitty gritty, finally, when my three-year-old, who is very fittingly dressed in her Halloween devil costume--even though it isn't Halloween--asks me:

"Mommy when can I read your book? It's my turn to read your book and you're not sharing." She folds her arms and I swear she has conquered the art of eyebrow cocking. It took me an entire summer in front of a mirror as a teenager to get that down pat.

"In five minutes," I mumble as I flip another page, one page closer to the villain.

"How long is five minutes?" she asks me.

I'm stumped. This is the ultimate question. How long is five minutes? Can I come up with anything that will satisfy this little information monger?

I can think of a million things to say: five minutes is about three minutes more than I get in the shower every morning. If I take any more time I'll have to peel the one-year-old adventurer off the curtains and the three-year-old will have probably started deleting our tax files off the computer.

Five minutes is about all the time I have in the morning to get dressed, deter an oncoming bad-hair day, eat, and brush my teeth before I get "Mommy, I'm not coloring on the walls," which means she is, and "Mommy, I ate all my breakfast except for the stuff the cat is eating," which means all of it, and before my one-year-old in the refrigerator is bustin' his chubby gut because milk is all over the floor again.

I could tell her five minutes is almost the amount of time someone took to come up with the really great idea of calling something disposable just because you throw it away when you're done with it.

I could tell her that five minutes is about the time it would take me to spend the millions and millions that Ed McMahon and Dick Clark keep teasing me about.

Or I could tell her that five minutes is about four minutes and ten seconds shy of the amount of time it took for me to completely fall in love with her when she was born.

But I say none of this. It would be much too scary to a three-year-old. She'd never again uncover her inner child no matter how much therapy if I laid those on her.

Instead I say to her:

"Five minutes is about the same amount of time it takes to give your mommy a really good squeezable hug."

She continues looking at me with her arms folded, considers, and says:

"Okay. But only for three minutes."

As she launches into my lap and holds on tight I wonder, how long is three minutes?

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