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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 10, 2001

Family Matters
Knowing the right time is not always by the clock

By Ka'ohua Lucas

"What time is it?" my 11-year-old asked as the wall clock ticked loudly above his head.

"Honey, if you lift your chin a bit and then avert your eyes to the right, slowly allowing them to climb up the wall, you'll see what we refer to in modern times as a clock," I said.

"Gosh, Mom, why couldn't you just tell me," he snorted. "What time are we supposed to go to tennis?"


For many of us, our lives are dictated by it.

The clock tells us when to wake, when to sleep, what time work begins, what time are tennis lessons – the list is endless.

In the western sense, time is seen as a commodity.

"You have to tailor the task to fit the time available, so sometimes you don't finish the project or you take shortcuts, so you can move on to the next thing on your list," says Pua Hopkins, retired Hawaiian language and culture professor at the University of Hawai'i at MÉnoa. "Coming from this perspective, time governs your life."

Traditional Hawaiians, on the other hand, feel that time is limitless and therefore take the time to accomplish the task at hand. When that's done, they move on to the next thing," says Hopkins. "If this is your view of time, then you control time; time doesn't control you."

Everyone has their own definition of time.

Take, for example, my family.

When I consider time, I view it from a modified western sense, and I think of punctuality, being somewhere, someplace at a designated time.

Others in my family — like my husband — control time. He does not allow time to govern his projects.

"Dear," I asked one morning with a lilt in my voice. "When do you plan to plant the banana stalk that appears to be withering away?"

"When the moon is right," my husband responded.

"What do you mean right?" I was agitated. "The tiny shoots look limp."

"Ka'ohua," he said, looking at me sternly. "When the time is right."

For someone like me, whose whole existence is dependent upon a watch, his response was difficult to swallow.

One year, our family planned to attend a volleyball game. Go Bows!

It was my responsibility to pick up two of the children, get them fed and showered and meet my husband and son at the game by 5:30 p.m.

It was 6 p.m., and still father and son had not arrived.

All of a sudden, my husband, racing up the steps two at a time, appears.

Out of breath and with a smile on his face he extends his arms and says, "Here I am!"

"That's great. Where's your son?"

"Oh my gosh, I forgot to pick him up," he said.

"What? You're kidding, right?," I shouted. "His after-school-care site is right next to your building."

"Don't worry, honey," he said. "He'll be all right. It's OK if I'm a little late."

For those of us who are "clock-watchers," it's a struggle being married to a partner who thrives on Hawaiian time in this way.

But in every relationship, there needs to be a balance.

Maybe one day I'll surprise him when he asks, "Honey, is dinner ready yet?"

"When the moon is full and the stars are in line with Makali'i," I'll say. "That's when I'll decide what we'll have for dinner!"

Ka'ohua Lucas has a 17-year-old daughter and two sons, 10 and 7. She hold a master's degree in education curriculum and instruction, works as a counselor for Native Hawaiians at Windward Community College and writes curriculum with a Hawaiian culture focus.

Lucas and fellow Hawai'i parent Lynne Wikoff take turns writing the Family Matters column. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future topics, write: Family Matters, 'Ohana Section, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail ohana@honoluluadvertiser.com or fax 535-8170.