It’s the season all Alaska parents alternately pine for and approach with bated breath. Spring has arrived, bringing warmer temperatures, soccer balls, bikes, trips to the playground, and one more thing: DAYLIGHT.
Alaska loves light. Imagine six months of the year (or longer, depending upon your geographic location) during which time you wake up, go to school or work, come home, eat, and go to bed without witnessing even a smidge of natural light. While we in southcentral (that would be Anchorage and the general vicinity) and southeast Alaska don’t have near the amount of total darkness of places like Barrow, it’s still tough.
And then comes THE LIGHT. We love it, embrace it like a lost child, then weep in utter frustration.
Bedtime. It sucks.
Remember as a kid that your mom was the only mom in the neighborhood who made you come inside, take a bath, and go to bed when everyone else was still outside playing ‘Kick the Can’? Yeah, me, too. Imagine that scenario at 10 p.m., May to September. Now imagine that scenario for families new to the Last Frontier, or those on vacation for a week or two.
(A little intermission here for you to enjoy the collection of photos in which AK Kid is actually sleeping. Do notice that many of these images depict a child drooling in his car seat, or over a book; this is at least at midnight. Darn him.)
While the newness of eternal sunshine tends to wear off on parents after a few days of late nights and twinkling twilights around the campfire, kids may need a little assistance to manage their confused little body clocks. AK Dad and I have learned over the years to be pretty darned stingy most of the time about sleep schedules, but even for us, it can be tough.
Visiting Alaska this summer? New to our fair state? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Stick to the routine, if you can. Yes, yes, it’s vacation, but do try to manage at least a semblance of bedtime scheduling; getting jammies on, reading stories, turning lights down, all that good stuff. Remind others in your midst of the plan as well, since grownups occasionally add to the problem!
2. Encourage a longer wind-down period. AK Kid has always enjoyed listening to stories on his CD player; if your kids have iPods/tablets, this might be a good time to tune into a story hour, or some quiet, nature-themed music. Start earlier, and you might win out in the end.
3. Bring darkness indoors if you can’t find it outside. The most difficult camping trip ever was the first summer in Alaska, when AK Kid was a toddler and would.not.go.to.sleep. in the tent. Further, he used this bonus awake time to learn how to climb out of his pack n’ play, making for an interesting evening all the way around. Solution? We brought extra blankets and strung them around his bed in a makeshift ‘closet’ sort of thing, and used clothespins to keep it shut. Works well in an RV, too. Most hotels will offer blackout shades; use them. AK Dad also swears by his eye shades, but many kids won’t keep them on for long. Gift shops carry the little shades in a variety of interesting colors.
4. Wear them out. While too much wild activity too close to bedtime can backfire, we’ve often found a rousing romp along the beach or local playground to be very helpful means of getting AK Kid to crash with ease. Just refer back to #2.
5. Have a peaceful snack. It’s true, warm milk does help you sleep. Try a bit of warm cow juice with a splash of vanilla or other sugar-free flavor to encourage nighty-night. The protein and temperature are lovely. Just be sure to send kids to the outhouse before sleep hits.
Still having trouble? Give it time, and remember the mantra of all Alaska parents, “They can always sleep later.”
Just be sure you have a triple-shot espresso handy, however. For you, not the kids.