Summer squeeze

Getting every last drop out of a fleeting season requires a complex formula

Longer summer days mean Miles Willing can try out more activities. Photo Credit Nicole Willing

There are few reasons why our son’s bedtime would be extended, even in the stretched sunny days of summer.

Once the elusive bedtime routine is finally nailed down, it becomes sacrosanct. You work hard for months (or years) to create the ideal ritual which will quickly and painlessly deliver your kid to dreamland. The temperature of the bath water, shortlist of storybooks and thickness of blankets have been carefully calibrated. 

It all leads to the minute the lights go out—the official bedtime. All other activities are now informed by this exact minute in the day. There is no flexibility and no sense risking months of work finding the perfect bedtime scheme.

The summer challenges those best-laid plans, forcing families like ours to carefully consider how much we’re willing to break bedtime.

Oh, the temptations. Barbecues, bike rides, ice cream, movies in parks, night markets…what magical evening escapades are you willing to trade in for your iron-clad bedtime?

I considered developing a scoring system. Maybe bedtime receives an automatic 10 points. Ice cream qualifies for seven points, so not enough to scrub bedtime. However, if that seven-point ice cream is combined with, say, a five-point splash pad visit, you have achieved the points necessary to boot bedtime later into the night.

Every kid is different, of course. Parents know best if their child can blow bedtime by two hours and get through the next day without much drama. Some kids will easily handle a change in the regularly scheduled programming, while others will fall completely out of step with the day’s rhythm.

Heading into summer, the lights-out time for our kindergartner Miles was 7:30 p.m. I expect there will be judgement on whether a kid that age should have a bedtime at that hour. Too late? Too early? I don’t know, but that’s where we landed and it works.

I don’t have much of a guideline when it comes to weighing the value of pushing bedtime deeper into the evening. Will our son have fun and come away with amazing memories? Will there be soft serve? That’s good enough for me.

Maybe this is the seasonal dilemma that befalls skiing families (we are not a skiing family). The slopes are jammed on the weekend and no one knows how long the ski season will last. Families feel pressure to make the most of every non-work, non-school minute by heading to the hills at night.

We put so much emphasis on weekend playtime when we could make better use of the hours we have during the week, especially at the height of summer, when daylight fades at 9 p.m. Summer rolls around and we win a few more daylight hours—extra time for bike rides, hikes or beach sunsets. I’m up for squeezing every ounce of summer out of all seven days.

We are understandably slaves to the evening ritual, but maybe we should give a bit more thought to, once or twice this summer, breaking bedtime.