• Drew Himmelstein

Early rising kids have the pandemic schedule down

When the sun starts to rise early in the morning in the summer, so do my children.

I fight this natural response of their bodies’ circadian rhythms through blackout curtains, specially-designed clocks that light up at my approved wake-up hour, and lots of urgently whispered admonitions to “Go back to bed! It’s still night-time.” The sun dancing brightly through our windows begs to differ.

Already, in May, it’s light outside by 6, and I’ve chased my kids back to bed when they’ve tried to get up too early. But now we’re living through a pandemic, a season in which avoiding other people as much as possible is the right thing to do. Living in a New York City apartment, my family’s current strategy for getting outside is to bank a couple hours at the park after breakfast, when the space is relatively uncrowded. But I wonder, as the days continue to lengthen, whether we shouldn’t lean into the bright early mornings? We could have the best climbing trees and dirt pits to ourselves for hours if we get outside shortly after sunrise.

As we adapt our habits to these difficult circumstances, it can feel troubling to admit that so much of daily life must change. At the same time, rewiring ourselves, even in small ways, to fit the moment we are in can be a healthy response and a good opportunity to pitch in. Getting up early leaves public spaces less crowded later in the day when more people want to use them, and it's a small sacrifice to support social distancing.

So I’ll ditch the blackout curtains and say yes to early mornings, even though, later in the day, when it’s busier outside, I’ll have to turn away from the window and pretend it’s raining out. We’ll reset our internal clocks for summer and for life with COVID-19. And in return, my children will get the gift of generous outdoor summer play, safely.

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