Monday, March 7, 2011

Daylight Savings Survival

Once upon a time, I was a cheerful morning person.  

I moved to a college dorm, and everything changed.  Evening classes, late night study sessions and cross stitch confabs combined with really bad cafeteria food to create a whole new problem for me in the form of sleep deprivation. Mornings were no longer my friend.  
 After I moved back home to complete my education, my body thankfully  re-adjusted, but I had learned some important lessons about my time management, and particularly my sleep habits.  I learned that I really need my sleep, and that I am best suited to a well ordered sleeping routine.  

I'll never forget my student teaching  weeks, which seemed to be going along so very well until the Monday morning after Daylight Savings Time.  It was a week from the pit.  The children were exhausted, cranky and hungry at all the wrong times.  They learned little, got into trouble in the playground, forgot their homework assignments, and generally made me question whither I ever had a true calling on my life to teach or have anything to do with children.
As I broke into tears in the teacher's lounge, one veteran teacher muttered 'Daylight Savings week is always a bear - you'll get through it.' That was a huge eye opener for me. I had never connected the dots, but thinking back I realized that while I hardly even noticed the time changes, many others do and particularly children. 
I tucked that thought into the back of my mind for years.

The difficulties the time change presents to families with young children became more evident as time went on. During our early years in church ministry, Daylight Savings Time often fell on Easter weekend.  Can I tell you that was enough to make the preacher's wife swear?  Well, it might have been, if I knew the words!  As it was, it made it terribly hard to enjoy the blessing of Resurrection Sunday.  Most of the time it was just bare survival, but after we were blessed with children, we just gave up.  It was no longer an enjoyable family day for us.  The Historian, who was then The Pastor, went to all of the Sunrise Services, Church Community Breakfasts, and early services alone, while I stayed home putting our special dinner in the oven and getting myself and the children ready for service.

Since we were often unable to get enough workers for the nursery on special family weekends, I generally stayed with the children. I can tell you, our children were not the only ones who were making their voices heard on the issue of the their messed up schedule! Often by the time we regrouped at home for lunch we were all too tired and grumpy to enjoy dinner and often went to bed rejoicing that it was at last 'over' for another year. Sad, I know.

Since Daylight Savings Time on Sunday I've decided to put together two posts on ways that our family makes the transition  go more smoothly.  I can honestly say that there was only one year where DST 'snuck up' on us and I didn't follow these steps and regretted it so completely that I vowed never to make that mistake again. Our children are 10 and 13 now and this may not seem like it is as critical as it was when they were 2 and 5 or 4 and 7, but it still serves us well, and might be something you've just never considered.

Now, if you have never had an issue with DST, you can stop reading, or read this simply to pass the  idea along to someone who might just need it.  

If you've never missed Sunday School, been late for church, been so starving by 11 AM that you thought you'd pass out in the pew, then maybe this isn't for you.  If your children aren't grumpy by suppertime, never have dark circles under their eyes and certainly have never needed a professional Bugler to get them out of bed after the time change, well I'm happy for you - really, I am! 

For the rest of us, we don't have to take Daylight Savings Time lying down - there is something to be done.  If you've just put your baby on a happy schedule and your children into a manageable routine, and you are dreading turning back the clocks as much as I am dreading my next root canal, I can help you. 
Read on!

Survival Step One:
It's Monday, so no doubt you are looking over your week, consulting the calendar and making plans. That's great.  I'm going to ask you to make a few small changes in your end of the week plans that will reap huge dividends for yourself and your children. 
Don't panic - it's nothing hard.  
It just requires a bit of thinking ahead, and an extra clock.

First of all you have a choice - how many days of thinking about the time can you work into the end of the week? If you need to change your family time schedule very slowly, you can begin today, Monday, and the 10 Minute Time Change Plan.  If you don't want to mess with this until later in the week you can choose the 15 Minute Time Change Plan and begin on Wednesday.  Or, if you really need to streamline this, there is always the 20 Minute Time Change Plan which begins Thursday.

Whichever plan you choose, by Saturday night when you are turning ahead the clocks you will already have adjusted your family schedule by 60 minutes - and you will have successfully  beaten Daylight Savings Time. 

Label that extra clock or watch 'New Time' but keep all of you other clocks at the regular time. The areas you will need to look at 'New Time' for are wake up time, nap time, bedtime and meal time.  Everything else remains the same.  If you can't change meals times, changing the sleep schedule will be enough to help you make a smooth transition into DST, but you may have a few grumbling tummies Sunday morning - just pack some snacks!

For our family we will choose the 15 Minute Time Change Plan and begin on Wednesday. The only thing I need to remember on Wednesday is to put the children and myself to bed 15 minutes EARLY and to set the time on the 'New Time' clock ahead 15 minutes. That's it.  
Told you it was simple.  

10 Minute Time Change Plan - Begins Monday (today). Put everyone to bed 10 minutes early and set the 'New Time' clock ahead 10 minutes.
20 Minute Time Change Plan - begins Thursday. Put everyone to bed 20 minutes early and set the 'New Time' clock ahead 20 minutes.

 Come back tomorrow for
Survival Step Two!

Oh, and just in case you wondered, I am not a morning person any longer.  I'd like to be, but my chronic health issues make it hard. I do my best not to be too grumpy, but I have my days!

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