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By the Clock

The clock is a constant in a shifting world. Six women share time-related tales

By the Clock

Esther Shaindy Leshkowitz

Time and tide stop for no man, and scientific theories abound for slowing time down with the aid of a black hole. However, there’s no one who has attempted to speed up time — aside from my mother. Never one to shy away from daunting tasks, and merely scoffing at the impossible, time was but a minor nuisance for her.

It was years ago, when our seven-year-old cousin was staying with our family while his parents were away. Our family consisted of five mostly obedient girls who did what we were supposed to. Bedtime was nonnegotiable, and the stories you hear about last-minute drinks or snacks were unheard of in our home. The established bedtime for our seven-year-old was 6:30.

Our cousin was noncompliant. His mother, he said, allowed bedtime at 8:30, and he refused consider an earlier time. Gentle negotiations failed to produce the desired result, so while the children were at school, my mother moved the clocks forward two hours.

“The clocks are off,” I told her as soon as I got home and saw the clocks, with the assurance that came with being the sole high school attendee in our household.

“I know,” she said, sotto voce, “I want the kids in bed earlier.”

I snickered and made eye contact with the sister two years younger than myself, and we felt that warm feeling of being in on something larger than ourselves. The ruse worked for two days until the kids found a clock that confirmed their suspicions — they were being scammed.

But our seven-year-old sister never was a slouch, and she recently confided in me that she was in on the game the entire time.

“I knew right away something was off,” she said.

The giveaway was her two older sisters giggling conspiratorially, and she conducted an investigation. Shortly after, an untampered bedroom clock in hand, she confronted my mother.

“Just don’t tell,” our mother told her, after explaining the situation.

Later, after bedtime, when our guest cousin was sound asleep and this sister wasn’t, she overheard my mother saying, “I really had no choice.”

So many of us — both children and adults — disregard the signs of fatigue.

“We look at the clock and think we can just push ourselves,” my mother told me as we were reminiscing about this incident. “If a clock says 8:30, you think you can’t go to sleep, even if you’re exhausted, because it’s too early. Make it say 11:30, and then you allow yourself to head to bed.”

These days, the sister who’s no slouch has adapted this approach to help her with her own kids.

“We underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep,” she says. “Sometimes we just need to recharge.”

Teaching them to be more in tune with their circadian rhythms, she doesn’t share the time changes with her youngest children, and when they comment on the early darkness, she agrees with them and says firmly, “Time for bed.”


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 785)

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