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When a minute isn't 60 seconds long

As someone who’s self-employed, I know all about procrastination.

The art of doing anything except what you should be doing doesn’t take long to master when you’re your own boss. And my ‘too difficult drawer’ often isn’t just overflowing, it’s virtually spilling into the street.

But the avoidance tactics my kids use when they’re not in the mood to do something put anything I do into the shade.

‘In a minute, Mum,’ are the four most overused words in our household.

And obviously that ‘minute’ isn’t actually a minute. Their interpretation of 60 seconds in this instance takes inspiration from Buzz Lightyear - to infinity and beyond.

I don’t know if this is something to do with living in the digital age, but there are times when I’m convinced my voice is like their own personal dog whistle – inaudible to all three of them.

A typical conversation after school goes like this:-

Me: ‘Come and get your homework done before you go on that X-Box.’

Child 1 (already on X-Box): ‘Just a minute, Mum.’

Me: ‘I said homework first.’

Child 1 (still on X-Box): ‘Hang on, I’ve nearly finished this game.

Me (three minutes later): ‘Can you get off that now please?’

Child 1: ‘Yep.’ (fails to move)

Me: ‘Now.’

Child 1: ‘Yep, coming.’

Me (three minutes later, steam coming out of ears like I’ve been plugged in and switched on a linen setting): ‘WILL YOU GET OFF THAT X-BOX NOW PLEASE AND DO AS YOU’RE TOLD!’.

Child 1: ‘Sorry! Yep! I’m coming! I’ve just got to kill this baddie and ...’

Me: ‘Where’s the off button?’

Child 1: ‘ARRRGHHHH! What did you turn it off for? I’d nearly won!’

The worst thing about episodes like this is not just that they happen every single day, but that Child 1’s younger brothers seem to be following suit.

‘In a minute, Mum,’ is muttered by the seven-year-old when he wants practice magic tricks instead of sitting down for dinner. And even, to my dismay, by the three-year-old when he’d prefer to read Mr Tickle than go loo (this can have particularly unappealing consequences).

I’m now convinced that I could be urging all three of them to leap from a burning building and they’d be muttering: ‘In a minute, Mum.’

If I was tougher, more effective parent, I’d probably think of some elaborate way of turning the tables on them, but so far I’m stumped.

Although I dream about a conversation that goes like this:-

‘Can you take the X-Box off that bonfire now?’

‘In a minute, son . . .’

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