Monday, April 10, 2023

Barely saved by daylight (a Daylight Saving Time tale)

Morning in the
neighborhood (yeah,
there are palm trees
but this in not our view,
just so it's clear)
Come with me, gentle reader, back a few weeks ago, for a tale of a conspiracy of circumstances almost causing chronological catastrophe (eh, kind of). However, before we start that, we need to set the scene with a bit of background on our morning routine.

On school days we have an alarm set to sound to get us up so we over an hour before needing to leave the house. Getting our son up on school mornings can be particularly challenging, so we factor in time to: 

  • actually get him out of bed (which sometimes literally involves dragging him off)
  • prepare him a warm breakfast (or at least something that can be warmed in the toaster over) and putting together his lunch
  • give him adequate time to eat (which often involves at least ten minutes of him just sitting at the dining room table, zoned out while presumably still waking up, allowing whatever we made to get cold) 
  • get himself ready (brush his teeth, wash his face, etc., while factoring in he'll goof around in the bathroom until we step in to get him back on track) 
  • get himself dressed (which he drags out to the last minute because he hates his school uniform)

As my wife and I both work from home that routine is all geared around getting him to school on time. Even on good days we're often just getting out the door on time.

The vast majority of those days I'm already awake when the alarm sounds. My body is simply accustomed to waking up then (and even on the weekends generally I cannot sleep in); the alarm is more the indication of needing to actually get up than something to rouse me.

Morning at the bedroom window
(not as attractive as the palm
trees so that's why I didn't
put it up top but included here,
as it's the actual view)
Being awake at that time of the morning allows me to somewhat track when the first light of sunrise starts showing on the east-facing windows of our bedroom, which had been getting a little earlier each day since December. In the week before changing the clocks for Daylight Saving Time the sky outside was starting to turn orange right around the time of the alarm.

AND that brings us to... the Friday before we "spring forward". Our son didn't have school for an administrative day, so we'd disabled the alarm on that day, as we didn't need to go through any of that normal routine and could let my wife and him sleep in a bit. (I'd be up anyway.) A little bonus sleep before the fall!

On that Sunday of course the clocks "sprang forward" to Daylight Saving Time, and everything seemed a bit off as it always does that day. Sunrise was now around the time we'd need to leave on a school day rather than around getting up time. But hey, the sunset was later so we had more daylight at the end of the day. That's the whole point, right?

On the Monday after "springing forward" I remember waking up and laying in bed for a couple minutes. The alarm had not sounded, and the house was a bit cold still with the unusually cool March we had, so I figured I had a few minutes before I needed to get out from under the warmth of the covers.

Then it occurred to me: It's starting to get light out. With the time change it should still be dark.

I grabbed my phone from my nightstand. (I don't have a clock there anymore.) It was about ten minutes until we should be leaving the house. We'd overslept!

We'd forgotten to re-enable the alarm after Friday's break. And my typically reliable body clock was still back on Standard Time.

I muttered an obscenity and quickly woke up my wife, then got our son out of bed. I apologized as I dragged him to the bathroom and got him ready myself, while my wife threw together his lunch (with extra snacks). She grabbed a banana and granola bar for him to eat in the car ride, and put a little milk in a thermos bottle. I got our son dressed fast while my wife quickly got herself ready to drive him to school. They got in the car and were on their way about fifteen minutes after my realization, so only about five minutes behind schedule.

When my wife got home from dropping him off I asked if they made it on time. As it turned out, traffic was lighter than usual and they were actually slightly early, presumably because most other people were running even later than we were.

Now with a few weeks to adapt, my body is waking up before the alarm again. Nonetheless, we now make a habit of making sure the alarm is set the night before. Parenting is always challenging, and often is barely pulling it all together in time, but schools really should not be making it even more difficult by disrupting that routine just before the time change. Clearly we can be ready in much less than an hour if we must, but that's no way to live.

(Changing the clocks twice a year is in its way absurd but that at least serves some purpose that can be beneficial. At least I assume so, having lived with it my entire life, but as I wrote last year it might be a harder sell if we didn't already do it.)