Alarm clocks

Or at least some advice.

The girlchild takes after the Mathematician in a variety of ways, good and not so good. She’s got a facility for numbers and abstract concepts (good); she’s tall and lean (good, in my short and round opinion); she’s a night owl. Which is really not very good because high schools don’t understand about circadian rhythms. Her natural rhythms would have her sleeping from about 2 am to 10 am; her first class starts at 7:45. This is one of those never-the-twain-shall-meet situations.

And I’m caught in the middle. Who has to get her out of bed when she’s moaning pitifully that she couldn’t fall asleep until two? Guess. And boy, can she get cranky when she’s tired. You know that dawn-of-the-dead ferocious yellow eyed stare? That’s her, in bed, looking up at me.

Of course she has to take some responsibility at age almost seventeen, but we have tried to help by providing incentives, both positive and (more recently) negative. The new one is this: if she’s not pulling out of the garage at 7:20, there’s no internet or television for twenty-four hours. My role in this: I wake her up, once. After that she’s on her own, and if she can’t make herself move in time, that’s it. No wiggle room.

This is very, very unpopular.

Today I decided to look for an alarm clock that would make it easier for her to get out of bed, and provide some relief for all parties. Especially me. Do you have any idea how many alarm clocks are out there, and how badly designed most of them are?

Here’s what I want, and can’t find:

1. An atomic clock, one that checks with the Colorado clock by radio and sets itself to the right time. My alarm has this feature, and I never have to worry about whether it’s right or not. This feature will preclude the “my clock is different than your clock my clock says I have five more minutes” debate.

2. A very, very loud alarm. This will cut off the “I slept right through it” discussion.

3. Buttons large enough to see. You think I’m joking, but some of the alarm clocks out there I swear have been miniaturized. Someplace design engineers are laughing hysterically at the idea of middle aged women trying to set an alarm by manipulating a button the size of a pin head. No “I set it wrong” excuses.

4. A clock that has BOTH batteries and an plug. Batteries for when the power fails, power for the rest of the time. The “I guess the power went out” last ditch excuse will no longer fly.

I have looked at a hundred, two hundred, a thousand alarm clocks today, thanks to the internet, and none of them combine these features. If they do, they’ve got some other feature than renders them completely useless. A clock that can be immediately silenced by touching it anywhere is not a clock that is going to get the kid out of bed on time. A clock that has a setting for a kinder, gentler sounding alarm? Really, not a good idea. Nor do we need a clock that tells us the temperature in New Delhi, the time in Miami, the humidity in our own garden. The clock doesn’t need to talk to us, or sing us songs or make breakfast.

Loud ring, reliable time, power backup.

Apparently, this is too much to ask.

18 Replies to “Alarm clocks”

  1. Can’t do much about the “reliable time” part, since that’s a function of whatever you set it to, but my current radio-clock, with nice loud alarm, does have a battery backup. Handy, that.

    I would also recommend–especially if your daughter keeps drapes/blinds closed when evening kicks in–to setting up a significantly bright light on a timer. I’m not kidding. Get a light like the kind used in stage/theater (photography stores will have them); they use bulbs similar to exterior spotlights. Plug it into a timer like the kind you use when going on vacation; set the time from about five minutes before her alarm goes off, to stay on for maybe a half-hour. Put it far enough away from the bed that getting up and walking over is required (do the same for the alarm clock). Then see if it works.

    Loud noises rarely wake me; I tend to be a very heavy sleeper. But someone opening the drapes in the room, or turning on the light, will bring me out of a sound sleep instantly. It’s worth a shot, at least.

  2. Ah–the joys of teenage circadian rhythms :-)

    How about simply a second clock, on the other side of the room, which involves getting out of bed to shut it off? I had to do that for myself.

    The “my clock is different than your clock” excuse sounds like a red herring. It’s very simple to check, before bedtime, that her clocks matches yours.

    How often, really, does the power go out? Travel clocks, cheap, inexpensive, can be set up somewhere else in the room.

    It sounds like you’ve got a level-headed approach to a thankless task. No matter how perfect a clock you find, there will always be some other excuse. It is her job to get up on time; her job to go to school. Good luck in helping her !

  3. This might just be an urban legend, but I have heard of an alarm clock that runs away from the sleeper in order to force them out of their bed. My understanding is that it is similar to the Roomba vacuum in the way it “ran around” and it was loud and very annoying so that you really wanted to turn it off, you just had to get out of bed to do so. I’ll look around the internet to see if I can find it.
    -Soup

  4. A quick peek into the internet reveals two sites:

    http://www.yankodesign.com

    blowfly alarm by Ena Macana -hovers around the room making noise until you catch it

    http://www.media.mit.edu/press/clocky/

    a shaggy alarm clock that moves once the snooze button goes off so that the next time you want to hit snooze you really need to find it.

    Or… you could borrow my daughter, she’s 17 months old and wakes up screaming at 7:30am CST, enough to wake anyone!

    Good luck!
    -Soup

  5. My teen’s cell phone alarm works when nothing else would work…of course that opens up the problem of “are they on it late at night” which we decided was worse than having to yell at her in the morning. But finally, “allowing” her to be late for school, just once, was really all it took.

  6. Maybe you’re thinking too high tech? What about one of those metal ones with the bells?

    The power going out will not affect it. Those sucker’s are loud, and just pressing a button to turn it off will not do the trick. If its put away from the bed she will have to get up to shut it off. So long as she sets it to your houseclock every night then the time differential debate should be settled.

    Really the only downside is the glass on the front will shatter if you hurl it against a wall with great force. But then again what does withstand rage?

  7. Ah, Mama,
    She’s done a number on you! Why are you responsible for finding a clock? It should be up to her to figure how to get to school on time – clocks, sleep, cell-phone beeps, discipline, punishment. Why do I know such things? Been there, done that. Twice. If she were late to school, wouldn’t the school punish her? Our precious, perfect babies know how manipulate us, no matter what their age.
    PS I bet taking away driving privileges would be a severe punishment to her! Of course, then you might have to drive her.

  8. There was a clock featured in a magazine last week where you had to solve a jigsaw puzzle in order to turn off the alarm. In my mind, you’d want to have a good distance between your room and hers though – in all instances where it’s a case of “catch it/solve it to turn it off” there is the possibility that they will get used to it going on and on and you’ll become an expert clock-catcher or puzzle-solver. I’d post a link for this alarm clock with the puzzle, but if you google “puzzle alarm clock” you’ll get the idea.

  9. I have an 11 year old with a similar problem. I have threatened to buy her a Batman alarm clock like her brother’s. It projects the time onto the wall in large type, and helps you realize how late you really are!

    A former roommate had an alarm clock that looked like a black and white spotted dog. It played Reville REALLY LOUD and then said, “WAKE UP! GET UP NOW! It woke the entire household up the first time it was used, and was never used again because it “disappeared”.

  10. high school sucks. as you said, they dont understand circadian rhythyms. i’m one of the only people in my school who actually goes to bed before 11 on a regular basis, and i’m STILL tired. however, i am also one of the lucky ones who actually has the willpower to get up at 6:05 despite my body’s wishes…for your gal, though, i would definately suggest one of the clocks that you have to catch/solve before it stops. clocky’s not available to the general public yet, but there was one in a catalog whose name has just blinked out of my head that looked like an alien and you had to catch and strangle it to shut it up. in one memorable experience, i watched one of my brother’s roommates walk over to his alarm clock on the other side of the room about four times to hit snooze, and fall back asleep after each time–meaning, he was still late to class. so if she REALLY wants to go back to sleep, walking across a room might not do it, but chasing something around (getting her blood pumping) might…

  11. It’s too bad I’m in Wales. I have the perfect clock for this; it’s a mechanical clock-radio with those little plastic flippy-tiles from the ’70s. It has a faux-wood finish. The radio dial has been obliterated by gunfire (really) and it still works perfectly.

    It makes the most obnoxious noise in the history of synthesized sounds. It’s kind of an irregular high-pitched chirping sound, punctuated by long squeals that sound like a sparrow being sucked through a vacuum cleaner (amplified to the Nth degree). The snooze button is large and easy to find– but the “off” button is small and very difficult to operate. It has three settings: on, off, and RADIO! If you’re not awake enough to move it gently to “off” you get RADIO!

    My trick with this when I was in high school was to put it on the other side of the room. That way I had to get up and go over there to snooze it. I got so I could do a great kind of judo-roll-lunge thing to reach the snooze button– but that still leaves the threat of having to hear that sound again in 7 minutes.

    It’s a great alarm clock. Appalachia won’t let me use it so I had to leave it in Seattle.

  12. You know the only real solution? College. Away from home. When my daughter left, I really missed her–except in the morning, when getting her up was NOT MY PROBLEM! And somehow she managed to get herself to class–which she made sure was no earlier than 9:30. So just hang on for a little longer.

  13. Sorry, Rosina. I know we’d talked about the school where I work, and it’s nice, because the kids can get up later and work when their brains are most awake… This works really well when the parents are able to monitor them and guide the study- something it sounds like you and the Mathematician would be good at. :) Keep on truckin’!

  14. As someone (now 50+) who has ALWAYS had a hard time waking up I’ve tried almost everything–alarm across the room, radio at full blast for an hour, phone, cell phone, bright lights… Here’s my 2 cents. The only thing that works consistently is human contact. My sons used to help when they were at home because the various alarms ringing in my room would wake them up. When travelling, I would ask the hotel desk clerk to get me talking on the phone. The best alternative was a combination pack: bright lights followed by phone followed by loud radio… you get the idea. Also, the cell phone doesn’t have to be on for the alarm to work and those can be pretty loud and effective. Good luck to both of you!!

  15. Sorry about her not being able to get up…. My older brother is the same way. He would set three alarm clocks – all which would wake me me up in next room – and he would sleep right through them. But, the moment someone opened his bedroom door, he was wide awake. We used to joke that I was his alarm clock.

    I would suggest the hidden alarm clock, set to go off five minutes after the first one, and is across the room so that she has to get out of bed to turn it off. Assuming that she’s not the type of girl to try to fall back into bed after accomplising that (like I am wont to do).

    Good luck. It’s hard to break the habbit of being a night owl. But it can happen. I did it, and now I’m… Well, I’m not happier, but my parents sure are.

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