The Clock in the Box that Stopped

A Pandemic Children’s Story

Something inside my box isn’t working.
My suspension springs are sprung.
The cuckoo won’t coo.
I’ve tried to swing my pendulum. It simply will not.
Things have not been right for a very long time.
I am sad.

Mom and Dad got worried and called the doctor.
He walked right in the house.
Human! H-U-M-A-N! I screamed.
It isn’t safe for humans to be this close.
But there he stood
in front of my face
peering here, poking there.

”Are your movements regular?”
”Have you lost any weight?”
Apparently, yes I have.
“Around the middle,” he claims.
How dreadful is that?
Will I die?
“Do you worry you might die?”
Well, Yes!
If your pendulum won’t swing,
and your movements aren’t regular,
your cuckoo won’t coo,
and you can’t move your hands.
Would you think you were going to die?
What if my parent’s cuckoo stops?
Will my parents die too?
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I can fix all this.”

He tied a wrench around my middle.
My pendulum started to swing,
my hands moved,
and the cuckoo coo’d.
I’m cured!!!
Except there’s a wrench hanging from my nose.
I can’t go to school
with a wrench hanging from my nose!
Dad had a solution.

My pendulum swings, my hands move, the cuckoo coo’s.
No one would know
my movements are not regular.
I will not die.
I do run slow,
I have fallen behind
and my cuckoo is not always on time.
But one day I’ll catch up.
One day, I’ll be just fine.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is the true story of our grandfather clock that stopped working last year during the pandemic. The repairman came to the house a few weeks ago and tied a wrench around the middle weight. It has worked perfectly ever since.

Around this same time I read about the crisis our children are facing from Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown. They’ve been isolated from friends and family. Relatives have gotten sick. They’ve lost their grandparents to Covid. Some have lost their parents.

A child becomes even more stressed when they don’t fully understand what is happening, and a year can seem like an eternity. This stress and isolation can affect a child’s brain development, sometimes with irreparable long-term consequences.

My husband figured out that three fishing weights could replace the wrench tied to our clock for a more inconspicuous solution, much like the vaccines have replaced masks to invisibly protect us from Covid.

And finally there is a return to normalcy, but the children are behind in school, still coping with traumatic stress and depending on us for the help they desperately need. Teachers are trying to deal with the crisis in their classrooms, but they have had little training for something of this magnitude.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the percentage of children ages 5-11 seeking mental health care at emergency departments in 2020 increased by 24% from 2019. For children ages 12-17, mental health-related emergency room visits increased 31% over the previous year.

Children may develop feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear of death, fear of parents’ death and fear of being isolated in the hospital, especially among the younger children (3-6 years old). This stress can cause them to be hopeless or withdrawn, have difficulty paying attention or retaining new information, therapists say.

Clock-in-the-Box is a brief cognitive screening instrument that can help identify patients with cognitive or functional deficits. So I wrote this child’s clock-in-the-box story for our children in crisis. Reading relevant stories to children can help them understand, relate and express their own anxieties. There’s a link at the end of this post to a list of books that help children navigate life in a pandemic. There’s also resources for parents.

The World Economic Forum has encouraged the global community to gather and mobilize public and private resources to support the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of the world’s children.

We call on governments, businesses, donors, and leaders to urgently help us by lending their resources, creativity, innovation and commitment to supporting this effort, as we build back better, shape a healthier and safer world for every child and young person, and support their mental health and wellbeing every step of the way.

If you have a child in crisis in the U.S., call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).

If you or your company have the resources to help the children, please contact Dr. Zeinab Hijazi, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Specialist,

Symptoms of a Child in Crisis:
Withdrawal from family and friends
Disinterest in former pastimes or hobbies
Prolonged episodes of sadness, anger or crying
Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting).
Sleeping much more or less than normal
Abrupt increase or decrease in appetite
Poor school performance or avoiding school.
Difficulties with attention and concentration.
Unexplained headaches or body pain.
Lashing out at others
Extreme self-judgment
Use of alcohol or other controlled substances
Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Read more / Learn more:

Daily Life Coping for Parents,

My Hero Is You,

17 Children’s Books To Help Kids Navigate Life During A Pandemic

Schools face mental health crisis among students as pandemic trauma remains Yahoo News

COVID-19 and Your Child’s Mental Health

Face masks and Children’s Emotion Understanding
Psychology Today

Impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

5 thoughts on “The Clock in the Box that Stopped

  1. Creative and well said! I am so grateful we live in this country, though, and us here in Alabama, where the restrictions have been more minimal. I have friends in the UK, in Mexico, Columbia and Argentina who have suffered from scared, oppressive governments who mandate restrictions not backed by science! Glad you are advocating for kids!


    1. It seems the children are struggling no matter what part of the world they live. Hopefully we can all come together for them in exchange for how much love and joy they bring to our lives.


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