In photography, the time period before sunset and after sunrise is called the “golden hour.” The lighting is softer then, the shadows less harsh, and it’s easier to get a good photo.
Around here, it seems, to me anyway, that the same time period is an ideal time for blowing bubbles, running in the yard, shooting baskets and doing other kid-like things. It’s when our winds have calmed and the scalding summer temperatures have dropped just enough to be comfortable but not enough that the mosquitoes have come out in force quite yet.
The problem this far north is that the nighttime golden hour occurs quite late during the summer. The sun doesn’t go down until most children are long in bed, tucked away and dreaming and out of their parents' hair.
“Most children,” as you may have guessed, rarely includes mine.
I remember trying to get my older daughter adjusted to nights and days after she was born. She, for better or worse, takes after her mama and always has had a preference for night and can happily sleep the morning away. In those challenging newborn days, I quickly realized I couldn’t change who she was. I’d let her nap during the day when she wanted to nap, and if she was up a little later than most kids at night, she seemed to sleep longer and heavier and wake up happier than if I tried to rock her to sleep earlier.
As she got older, it got easier to put her to sleep a little earlier. But I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that putting my kids to bed too early in the summer was depriving them of that beautiful period of day when the air is still and the light is soft and imaginations just seem more ready to take off.
Both of my girls stay up far later than most people would advise for kids their ages. It lets them play when the outside is conducive to play, and it lets them see their dad more than they would were they tucked in at a respectable time. Farm and ranch work doesn’t follow a 9-to-5 schedule but does follow that same sun that seems barely to go down from about late May to mid-July.
Plus, if they went to bed before the sun, when would they ever see or chase a firefly? I can let them sleep in most mornings without too much disruption, and so night owls they remain.
It’s kind of the same with mealtimes around here. I giggle when people talk about eating at 5 or 5:30 p.m. I’ve barely thought about what to cook by then. In the winter, we probably eat by 7; in the summer, it might be even later. We adjust with the seasons, and it allows us to maximize our time together and use the time as we prefer.
Soon we’ll have to start adjusting to bedtimes again so that we can put a preschooler and a third grader on the bus to school at an earlier hour than either of them would choose. The first few nights, when the sun is still glistening outside while they brush their teeth, will be difficult. They’ll adjust, with some complaints, and get back on a schedule not determined by the sun.
But for now, we’ll spend our golden hour picking the peas that grew in our little garden, practicing jump shots and soaking in that soft light, enjoying the calm of the summer for as long as we can.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's content manager. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at email@example.com or 701-595-0425.