The Early Bird Vs The Night Owl

night owl early bird

When I started dating my husband and I considered the possibility of a future together I thought we had so much in common.  We were like peas in a pod; we both grew up on Long Island, we attended the same sleep-away camp, we practiced the same religion, we both had two brothers, we were Islander fans, and we loved peanut butter.  As much as we were the same, we also possessed one major difference:  I was an early bird and he was  a night owl.  It didn’t seem like a big deal early on in our marriage, in fact, it worked to my advantage.  I could get up at the crack of dawn, go down to the corner and get us breakfast, and then finish a paper for my master’s program just in time for him to wake up at 2:00pm.  We would then spend the afternoon together, and watch television at night, before I turned in and he stayed up doing G-d-knows-what until the early hours of morning.

Fast forward to having our first child:  Our son was an early bird and he would wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:00am ready to conquer the day.  And by 7pm, he was in bed for the night.  When our second child came along, she didn’t need to be in bed by seven; she was the quintessential tag-along sister and was able to stay awake later than her brother did at her age if we had to be out for one of his activities.  Now as my kids are getting older, and the after-school activities run until way after dinner, bedtimes have almost gone by the wayside.  It’s not that I don’t set them, it’s that either we get home after bedtime, or they are still worked up from the day to fully wind down in time for bed.  When we do have an early night or activities are cancelled due to weather (I love those nights!), my son gets into bed around 9:30 and after a minute or two, he is asleep.  My daughter, on the other hand, is a chip off the old dad block (not that her dad is old, he’s the same age as me and we are not yet old).  Her bedtime is 9:00pm.  She showers before then and is expected to be in bed at nine with her book and do her 30 minutes of reading before lights out.  At 9:30, I will head into her room to kiss her and she usually asks to keep her reading light on for a few more pages.  But sometimes, I will head up for bed and find that she is still reading at 10:30!  I am not one to discourage a child from reading, but these late nights turn into grumpy mornings.

I am used to grumpy mornings.  My husband is a clock-snoozer and audibly complains each time the buzzer buzzes.  Of course, I am up at the first buzz even though my “job” doesn’t require me up for another 20 minutes.  When it’s time to get my son up, he usually wakes up to his alarm on his own, but on the off chance that he doesn’t, the squeak of his bedroom door opening is enough to have him on his feet and off to brush his teeth.  Ahh…my morning boy.  My daughter is a completely different story.  She has not one, but two alarms go off in her room.  About 5 minutes after the second alarm is when I call up to her.  About 5 minutes after that is when I go to her room to wake her.  Here’s where it gets interesting:  My early bird personality is already in full swing while she is balled up under covers and pillows and stuffed animals trying not to be discovered.  My usually cheery, fun-loving daughter is a grumpy mess.  I can’t help myself some mornings.  When she refuses to get out of bed, I have used all sorts of tactics.  I have taken the covers from her, I have dragged her out and put her in the bathroom, I have sung a “good morning” song in my most annoyingly cheerful voice.  And I have even used my most powerful weapon:  Cold hands on warm skin.  That usually sends her flying – kicking and screaming – but out of bed nonetheless.   It’s a lot of work to wake a night owl early in the morning!

We live in a house divided; two early birds and two night owls.  I spend the majority of my Saturday mornings shushing my son because his father and sister are sleeping.  And I am consistently kicking my husband out of his own bed to watch tv and sit on his laptop in another room when I want my peace and quiet at 11:00pm.  I have tried to change my ways.  I have attempted to stay up until the end of Saturday Night Live and I have forced myself to roll over and tell my brain to go back to sleep on a Sunday morning at 7:30, but I just can’t do it.  I am wired to be a morning person.  Once in a blue moon, my husband will go to bed early, but it’s usually out of sheer exhaustion and on a couch while watching a game.  No matter how early he goes to bed, he still finds the morning wake-up difficult.  But my efforts to change our ways, to put us all on the same clock, is futile.  Apparently, our clocks are genetic, or at least I assume they are.  I come from a long line of early birds, and after living in my in-laws’ house for six months while my house was under construction, I can say that without a doubt, my husband is purebred night owl.  Still, there must be a solution to the grumpy mornings and impossible late nights so that we have family harmony.

But I don’t think so.  And the sun is not on my side.  With the fall season upon us, we are losing precious daylight hours – hours that this early bird needs to function.  The dark afternoons affect my mood, my energy level and my patience to keep the night owls on schedule for work and school.  This week especially, it has become that much more difficult to get the night owls out of bed, and in all honesty, more difficult for me and my early bird kid to rise and shine in the dark.  But maybe there is a silver lining to the impending daytime darkness (when the sun goes down before 5pm, that’s daytime darkness):  Maybe my night owls will have enough “night” time in the early hours to make it to bed at a reasonable hour and get us all on the same schedule.  Maybe then we will have happy mornings!  One can only hope.