Vail Daily Column: New dad ponders the long days of summer
July 26, 2010
VAIL – I remember the lightning bugs best. My most potent childhood memories take place in the summertime. It’s something about the supersized days, playing tag and chasing lightning bugs long past my usual bedtime. When eight and nine o’clock roll around now as an adult, the shouts of the neighbors running in their bare feet playing soccer in the backyard stir up those memories.
There will be a day when my two-year old daughter is out there joining this childhood rite of passage. But for now I still put her down at her usual bedtime, a slave to the schedule, even though as I tuck her in, the sun hangs confidently above the mountains. It feels like I’m robbing her of her natural childish rights.
In fall, winter, and spring, The Kid’s early bedtime allows her to get the full sleep she needs and still wake up early enough to get out of the house when I need to drop her off at daycare. The system works well. After pajama time, teeth brushing, stories, and a kiss goodnight, I turn off the light and the room goes dark. Winter is reliable.
It’s the rebellious summer sun that causes all the problems. The Kid still needs her full sleep. She still needs to get up at the same time in the morning. Therefore logic says she needs to go to sleep at the same time in the evening.
But these extended days, after pajamas and stories and yada, yada, yada, I turn out the light and … the room is still as bright as it ever was. I feel ludicrous at this point… like I unveiled King Kong to a packed theater only to find a wind-up cymbal-playing monkey doll behind the red curtain.
The Kid never seems to mind much. She’s used to the routine. She doesn’t know anything different. Nobody told her that people don’t normally go to bed when the sun’s still up. As I lean over the crib railing and kiss her on the forehead she has a smile on her face.
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The open window lets in the shouts and smacks of the neighbors playing street hockey. I wouldn’t blame her for protesting, but she doesn’t. For some reason I feel she knows this is a ruse and she still plays along. In the winter there’s not a peep from her bedroom after I close the door. During these summer nights she talks to herself longer than I would expect. It might be an hour, it might be more. These are happy noises, nothing that would make me come back into her bedroom.
Yet I can’t shake the feeling that I’m cheating her. It’s that balance between being responsible that she gets enough sleep and being responsible that she gets to be a child-running barefoot in the grass as the little light that’s left disappears to the point that she can hardly make out her father standing in the doorway calling her inside.
She’s only two. She has time. Future summers will give her the pleasure of cheating bedtime. I’m not robbing her of her memories of lightning bugs. Vail doesn’t have any.
Genevieve and Kelly Coffey share a column on their experiences raising a toddler. They share their mistakes, fears, and laughs along their journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. E-mail comments or questions about this column to email@example.com.