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posted: 5/7/2012 2:49 PM

Summers used to be longer, right?

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Summers used to be longer; when I was a kid they lasted forever.

Summers were at least as long as the school year. Each day was filled with warm sunshine, countless things to do and time -- so much time. I'll bet your summers were like that, too.

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But then we all grew up. We somehow lost all that limitless time, or at least we seemed to.

Though as adults we know summers are just as long -- or short -- as they were when we were children, the fact is that they were, in a sense, longer for us as kids.

Children actually experience time differently than adults. As kids, especially before we learn the intricacies of telling time, we don't think in terms of minutes, hours, weeks, months or years.

We mark of time by what might be called "landmarks" -- events that divide up our day, week, month or year, such as getting up in the morning and going to bed at night.

But we also set our clocks and calendars by other landmarks such as meals, going to school, a trip to the playground or a friend's house, a game, a dip in the pool, our favorite TV show, nightfall, a bedtime story and, of course, holidays and birthdays.

Such landmarks are usually not specific to a particular time, number of minutes, time of day, month or year, but rather simply mark for us the passage of time.

A half-hour game of tag and two hours in the pool might seem like equal time spent because they made an equal impression on us. There may seem little difference between July and August, or what happened when we were 6 versus when we were 5. And because as children our summer days are often less structured than time during the rest of the year, they do seem to stretch on forever -- from one activity to another, day after day, week after week.

But even during the rest of the year, children still experience time differently. If we think for a moment about how important such landmarks are even for adults, all this is not hard to understand.

We, too, tend to remember best important or dramatic events which mark the passage of time: the Christmas of the Big Blizzard, the year Mom was in the hospital, the day when so and so called, etc.

This all does have some practical value. Parents can get more than a bit frustrated when our children seem to have little, if any, concept of time passing.

When we tell our 7-year-old to "check in an hour from now" and we have to go searching for him after an hour-and-a-half, we often assume that he is either defying us, forgot or didn't listen. But it's quite possible he simply lost track of such "adult" time and got caught up in "kid" time.

When a 3-year-old throws a fit when we cancel the regular bedtime story because we got home too late, we could recall that "too late" has meaning only to us.

When we impatiently explain, for the fourth time, that we're going to the park in 45 minutes, we might remind ourselves that our daughter has no sense of such clock time; she's just waiting for a landmark in her time.

When our children insist that something happened in April that we know took place in March, we can remember that a calendar time only makes sense on paper, and it doesn't have a lot to do with the real world of a child.

One final thought: We might also want to recapture some of our own "kid time" on occasion. I tried it the other weekend. Having plenty to do, but no specific appointments or time commitments, I took off my watch. I also avoided constantly checking every clock I walked by. I just went on with my day. And it did seem longer. I even enjoyed it more. Though it is not something I could do every day, it did feel good.

Summer is just around the corner. How long would you like it to be?

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