Children aren't on the clock

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

In our hurry-up world, time doesn't stand still. It rushes along in the fast lane.

Our modern society is full of schedules. Seconds matter.

Americans have perfected the practice of cramming tons of activities into work and play.

We live by schedules, whether neatly recorded in Palm Pilots or outlined in handwritten notes on the refrigerator.

Parents particularly face an uphill battle in time management. That's because our children aren't on the clock.

Our second-grader, Bailey, isn't speedy in the morning. She wastes precious minutes looking for just the right outfit, as well as socks and shoes.

Joni and I are constantly encouraging her to kick it into high gear. But Bailey doesn't work that way, no matter how much time is ticking away.

Our oldest daughter, Becca, has a better grasp on the morning rush. A sixth-grader, she understands clock management certainly better than Rams coach Mike Martz.

Of course, neither daughter is very good about getting to bed on time. They have a way of dragging out bedtime. They slow down even as Joni and I try to speed up the process.

But no one puts the brakes on time like Bailey. Even bath time can seem like a marathon in her world.

I sometimes envy Bailey's ability to proceed slowly, ignoring what's speeding all around her and finding time to have a leisurely tea party with her Barbie dolls.

She doesn't look at the clock. But when you're an adult, you're always checking the time on your wrist, on the wall at work or home, or even in the car.

No one rocks away the time on his front porch anymore. Of course, most of us don't have a front porch. Even if we did, we'd be hard pressed to find the time to sit there, what with work, shopping, Scout meetings, sports and countless other activities.

Shopping with my family takes forever. The kids can spend hours wandering through their favorite stores as if time stood still.

It's times like these that I wish our family could resort to speed shopping.

As for work, a lot of Americans are working more and enjoying it less, experts tell us.

Americans averaged 1,878 hours on the job in 2000, up more than 10 percent from 20 years ago, according to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, which apparently has the time to check up on all our time.

That means there's less time for family and friends.

Some Americans are turning to professional time managers to balance their lives. Time managers say people get frazzled because they're driven by the clock and try to cram too much into their lives.

Even when I misplaced by wristwatch for a few days, I still ran my life on the clock -- at work, in my car, on the dining room wall, the television screen and the microwave oven.

With so much going on, even a family night out has to be scheduled or it might be pushed out by other time-consuming endeavors.

We'd all be better off if there were more time for bedtime stories and family conversation, and less time for telemarketers and time clocks.

As a dad, I'm glad my kids don't wear wristwatches yet. There's no need for them to hurry through life -- not when they have parents to do it.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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