But for parents of small people, there is no reason to celebrate daylight savings. For them, the time change is an epic hassle. Toddlers are nothing if not creatures of habit. Change their routines, and there will be hell to pay. Mike and I started the parenting thing a little earlier than a lot of our friends, so we're at a very different stage in life than the ones who still have infants and toddlers living under their roofs. We're not facing weeks of disrupted sleep, kids waking up an hour earlier than the clock says they should, or falling asleep in their plates at dinner. Even if our kids wake up earlier than we want them to, for the most part it has no effect on our day. In fact, just this morning I got up to let the dogs* out and sat down on the couch in the TV room to check my email. After a few minutes, I heard a weird clicking sound from the front room, and wandered in there to find Nathan happily playing video games. Until that very moment, I thought I was the only one up.
When your kids are born, you have to essentially function as an external life support system. They're completely dependent on you for everything, and you have to teach them things - to eat, to walk, to talk, to blow their noses - that seem ridiculous, in retrospect. Later, those lessons get a little more abstract - to beware of strangers and cars, to read and write, to share. We're in a sort of weird parenting phase now. Both of our kids are able to feed, dress, and entertain themselves. Nathan can read better than most high school students and rarely needs help with his homework. Brendan is in high school now, teetering on the brink of adulthood. He never asks for help with homework. In fact, he nearly always denies the existence of any homework assignments. Tonight he cooked us dinner. He made wings (in a deep fryer that I am not allowed to use without adult supervision), corn, baked beans, and tater tots, with minimal assistance. Sometimes it feels like the only role we have left is to write checks, provide transportation, and keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked. They're both pretty good kids, and because we provide so little help to them with their day-to-day needs, it sometimes feels like the only thing we have left to do is to wait out the teenage years and unleash them on the world after graduation.
But I realize that the hardest and most important part of our job is still in process. We have to teach them how to be productive and engaged members of our community. They need to know that the biggest test of their characters will be how they act when nobody else is looking. We have long (and generally interesting, sometimes absurd) conversations about politics and economics and justice. We have to teach them how to be good friends, boyfriends, and later, husbands, and (hopefully) someday, fathers. Anyone can teach a kid how to tie his shoes; it's a lot more difficult to teach him how to handle himself when someone he thought was a friend turns out not to be, or how to stand up for people and animals who can't stand up for themselves. When they are little you can carefully curate their list of friends and arrange playdates for them. When they are teenagers with smart phones and social media accounts and 24/7 ability to be horrible to one another without any parental buffer, sometimes the only thing you can do is just reassure them that high school won't last forever. And, perhaps most difficult, as our friends and family age and die, we have to teach them how fleeting life is, how important it is to spend time with the ones you love the most, and how to honor and carry on those loved ones' lessons and memories.
Some days it would be so much easier to go back in time and deal with lost sleep and tears because someone took the train they wanted to play with at the library. Luckily for us, they are good kids, and their friends are good kids who come from good families. With every day that passes, I become more acutely aware how quickly their entire childhood goes by. We're on the precipice of driving (which means even more independence), SATs, and college visits. Someday soon our only role will be to worry about them from afar, offer advice only when asked, and occasionally bail them out** when trouble strikes. That will be the most difficult phase we'll ever endure, and it'll last for the rest of our lives. So for now, I'll just try to enjoy sleeping in and providing taxi services and commiserate with our friends who haven't slept through the night in weeks. And I'll take my own advice and remember to try to love nearly every precious minute of it.
** Dear lord, please let there not be any literal bail payments.