Clocks, and “A few more seconds”

This past weekend we drove to visit my folks on the other side of the state, which typically requires about three hours of travel each way.  Most of that is driving, so we take a break in the middle to let the girls get out and run around for a bit.  Honestly, I think they would run around whether we stopped the car or not so for safety’s and sanity’s sakes, we stop.

Spending three hours in a car can get a little dicey, even with the break in the middle, so we try to get on the road as early as possible to maximize the “groggy clock”.  The groggy clock starts ticking when the child wakes up and winds down to 0.  The child is typically very docile during this time, and it allows for some last-minute tasks to be performed by the parents like waking up ourselves, getting dressed, or finishing breakfast.  The tricky part about the groggy clock is that we have no idea what the starting time is or how fast it will run day to day.  It could range anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.  The end result, though, is typically the same – once the groggy clock hits 0, they are ready to run and play and laugh.  If Mom and Dad can’t keep up, we get mowed down.

The really tricky part about the groggy clock comes when you drop the child into a vehicle.  If the child finds herself buckled into a car seat when the groggy clock reaches 0, the “ultimatum” clock is set and begins to count down.  Like the groggy clock, the ultimatum clock gets set to a random starting value and random countdown speed.  Once this clock hits 0, though, the decibel level in the vehicle goes up substantially.  The ultimate clock can be slowed by toys, books, CDs, and DVDs, but with cars like the ones we own, cabin space is at a premium, so the number of distractions we can pack in is limited.

To maximize the groggy clock time and to delay the onset of the vocal volcanoes, we try to get on the road as close to when the girls wake up as we can manage.  Usually this means waking up WAY earlier than I prefer on a Saturday, showering, eating a quick breakfast, and packing the car – all the while trying not to wake the girls.  Then it’s the flight of the bumblebees to wake them, get them dressed, throw them in the car and go.


This past weekend, however, we had two additional tasks that we needed to perform before we could leave town – fill up the car and fill up the wallets.  As it turns out, we have a gas station and a bank with an ATM right across the street from each other, and both a few blocks from our house.  We decided to use geography to our advantage to save time.

CJ pulled into the station and got out to fill up the car.  I got out, walked across the street, got some cash out from the ATM, and then walked back.  As I was walking back to the car I saw CJ get back into the car and start the engine.  When I reached the car and opened the door, I found CJ laughing.  She asked, “do you know what your daughter just did?”

Me: “No, what?”

CJ: “As you were walking back I pointed you out to Lucy – ‘See?  Here comes Daddy’ and then started the car.  Lucy got VERY concerned that we were about to drive away without you and started saying ‘WAIT!  WAIT!  WAIT!’”

I can only imagine what was going through Lucy’s head right then.  “Don’t go yet Mommy!  Daddy will make it in time!  Just give him a few more seconds!”