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My wife, Donna, and I were out buying items for our children and grandchildren when we ran into an old friend in the Valentine aisle at the store. Mike, a very good man, had taught many of our children in school.

He smiled when he saw us and asked “So how many children do you have left at home?”

“Two,” I replied. “All the others are off to college or married. How about you?”

“Oh, my wife and I have been empty nesters for a few years,” he replied.

I knew that he had around six children, so I said, “I bet it seems quiet around your house with all of the children gone.”

He shrugged slightly. “I guess it is. I kind of like it. In fact, I must have gotten used to it, because every time the grandchildren come to visit, I about go crazy from the noise.”

“How many grandchildren do you have?” Donna asked.

“Fourteen. But the problem is, they are all under five. All of my children got married within a couple of years of each other and started having children at the same time.”

“Wow!” I said. “Fourteen under five!”

“I bet there’s a lot of pandemonium in your house when they’re all home,” Donna said.

“That’s kind of an understatement,” Mike replied.

“In one of Daris’s plays, a little girl calls family pandemonium ‘happy noise,'” Donna said.

“Well, we have all fourteen at our house right now,” Mike said, “and I think we have so much happy noise that I am about to check myself into a mental institution.”

“So what does your wife think about it?” Donna asked.

“She loves to have them all home, and I swear that with her, the more noise, the better. And when I start to get tense, she tells me it’s time for me to take a timeout.”

“A timeout?” Donna asked.

“Yes,” Mike replied. “She’ll say, ‘Mike, don’t you have papers to grade or something?’ Then I know that she’s telling me to take a timeout.”

“How does that work for you?” Donna asked.

“It actually works well. I leave all of the noise behind and find something else to do until I am not so keyed up that I can once again deal with the commotion.”

I had to smile at the idea of Mike having to have a timeout. He was one of our children’s favorite junior high teachers. He taught science, and the children often did experiments in his class. But when a child got out of hand, Mike would have that child take a “time out.” That meant they were supposed to go do something away from the experiment that the other students were doing. The rambunctious student was allowed to read, draw, or do anything that was quiet. It just had to be something to give the child a little time alone to get themselves back together before joining the others again. The idea that what he used as a teacher for students was being used by his wife for him was what made me smile. Perhaps that was the reason he used it.

“So what are all of your grandchildren doing at home right now?” Donna asked.

“I’m not sure.” Mike said. “They were being really noisy when I left.”

I laughed. “Let me guess. You’re in a timeout right now?”

Mike nodded. “You’ve got it. So I thought I would make use of it to buy my grandchildren some Valentine candy. Because, even if I need to take a timeout from them, I still want them to know I love them.”

I nodded. Perhaps a timeout would be good for all of us now and then.