At our house all good things happen “When the clock is up”. It started at dinner. We needed a way to get our daughter to sit through a meal even when she deemed the offerings to be inedible. We tried songs and stories and slapstick and even magic tricks but nothing seemed to distract her from her ultimate goal of getting out of her highchair. Until one night, in a last ditch effort I pointed to the old wooden clock that hangs on our wall and showed her the journey that the big hand would take in order to land on the Roman numeral twelve.  “When it’s up,” I said, “you can leave the table.”

“When the clock is up?” she asked just to get confirmation.

“Yes,” I repeated, “ You can be done when the clock is up.”

In that moment the clock became her greatest ally. It was her gateway to freedom. The clock could give her what she most desired.

After that night she got it in her head that “the clock” could help her out of other situations too.

We’d be waiting in a line at the grocery store and she’d ask to go home because “The clock is up”. We’d be driving somewhere and she’d pronounce that she could get out of her car seat because “the clock is up.”

“There’s no clock here. It doesn’t work like that,” I tried to explain. But she needed something to help her wait it out. She needed a cue to look forward to; some sign that would let her know, “you will soon get what you want.”

So I just started inventing it. I started creating the passage of time. Like, we’ll go to the park and she’ll immediately ask for a snack. So I’ll say, “You can have a snack when the wind sounds like a cat.” And then fifteen minutes later, after she’s run around for a bit I’ll hold my hand to my ear and say, “Do you hear it?” And she’ll get quite and say, “The wind is a cat. Time for snack!” and we’ll eat.

Or she’ll be having trouble waiting for a kid to get off the swing and want to know “When will it be my turn mommy?” And I’ll answer, “It will be your turn after we find the biggest green leaf.” Then we’ll go around hunting for some foliage.

“Green leaf” she’ll say each time she spots one.  I’ll look over to see if the kid is done. If he isn’t I’ll say, “ Humm…I think there must be an even bigger one around here somewhere.”

Occasionally I just leave it up to fate. Like the other day we were walking towards the front stoop about to go collect the mail and I got a phone call. Sage immediately wanted to know when I’d be off. “When the red car goes honk” I blurted and then just sort of kept my fingers crossed that a disgruntled driver of a cherry corvette would not zoom by with his hand one the horn anytime within the next three to five minutes.

And the more we do this, the more we let time pass by our surroundings, the more I feel like we are tapping into something very primal and very real; It’s kid time, it’s earth time. It’s not broken into little fractions and bits. It’s graceful and continuous and unexpected.

It’s like watching a stray balloon move across a city skyline.

It’s like camping.

I want it to continue as long as it possibly can. I wonder if I can make it last forever. So I conjure up a scene of us way down the road, just to see if we could pull it off.

I imagine us ten years in the future…

Me: Sage it’s time to do your homework.

Sage: No mom. I’m waiting till the moon is full and the sky is clear.

Me: But the moon is full.

Sage: The moon is full yeah but the sky is not clear. Maybe it will clear up in an hour or two. If not there’s always next month’s lunar cycle. I’ll just tackle the book report then.

I picture us twelve years down the line…

Me: What are you doing driving the car?

Sage: Today I saw three yellow bikes in the parking lot at Walgreen’s.

Me: What does that have to do with anything?

Sage: I always knew I’d be ready to drive on the day I saw three yellow bikes in the parking lot at Walgreen’s.

Me: But you’re only twelve…

Sage: Age is just a state of mind mom. God you’re such a fascist.

No, this kid time definitely has an expiration date. But luckily I don’t know what that date is. I’ve ditched all my calendars and watches. For now I’m just flying blind. I’ll stop when a bee flies around my head six times or when my left shoe gets carried off by a hawk or the day after a black cat winks at me.

I’m thinking, or hoping, I’ll just know when it’s time…

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