Vienna by night

In Vienna, in the winter, so much of our time is spent in the dark, and in the summer, so little of it is.  From sometime in November until early February, Dan and Benjamin are almost never home during daylight hours.  From early in May until mid-August, my kids hardly ever experience darkness — they wake up and go to bed completely in daylight, for months on end.

The transitions to Daylight Saving Time and back happen at a different time here than at home, too.  Not only does that give me two weeks in the spring and one week in the fall where I have no idea what time it is anywhere, but it means we have 3 weeks more of dark evenings than we had at home.  This year, the Monday after the time change in October was a holiday (Austrian National Day) and we celebrated the fact that the whole family had a day off together by spending it at the swimming pool.

We were out most of the afternoon, and when we started to head home, it was already dark, thanks to the time change the day before.  I found it particularly odd and a little disconcerting, in large part because, strange as it may seem, I am pretty much never out in Vienna at nighttime between April and October.  Stepping out of the brightly lit swimming facility into the dusky evening was like suddenly stepping out into an unfamiliar city.  It happens every year, but it always takes me a little time to get used to experiencing Vienna in the dark … and then once I get used to it, I get to spend months getting REALLY used to it.

Just last week, I picked B up from school and we arrived home with enough daylight that we didn’t immediately have to turn on all the lights — for the first time in nearly 3 months.  It’s the first sign that we’re on our way back to seeing Vienna only by day and likely forgetting, once again, what it’s like here in the dark.

Time travel

I hate Daylight Saving Time.

Well, I do kind of like that the sun doesn’t rise at 3:30 in the morning in June.  And I do like having extra light in the evenings to run, or go for a walk, or stop by the playground.  But the switch from “standard” to “saving” time apparently makes my entire family crazy.

It doesn’t just feel like we moved our clocks ahead by an hour, it feels like we travelled back in time 6 months (or more).  We all make progress, all the time — the kids grow up, learn to do and handle new things while I try to work on myself, improve my perspective and weed out bad habits and thought processes.  The last 36 hours (we just had our time change this past weekend here in Europe) have been like stepping back to last summer or fall, and not in a good way.

Liam has been throwing more tantrums.  Liam has been throwing more toys.  Liam has been throwing more food.  (There’s been a lot of throwing.)  Liam has been hitting Benjamin, Dan & I — not something we’ve gotten rid of entirely, but something we had made massive progress on in the past few months.  Liam, who recently transitioned to not wearing diapers at all during school hours, refused to leave the house without one this morning and had a crying meltdown at preschool drop off.  Benjamin has been tearful over his toys.  Benjamin has been tearful over the arrangement of his pillows and blankets.  Benjamin has been tearful (and angry) about pretty much every single thing Liam has done in the past day and a half.  Both kids seem to have forgotten how to listen.  And I have handled all of this with hard-won wisdom and maturity — I’ve screamed, threatened, begged and cried.  Let me just say — it has been a massively charming day and a half around here.

I suppose it’s possible that it’s a complete coincidence and we all just woke up in terrible moods and without any flexibility yesterday morning.  Maybe we’re coming down with something.  Maybe there’s just something in the air.  I mean, how could one little shifted hour wreak so much havoc?  This feels like jet lag on steroids.  We’re all out of patience, empathy, maturity and resilience here right now.  Fingers crossed that we get through this transition QUICKLY, and with a whole new appreciation for the progress we’ve all made over the past few months after this temporary reminder of how far we’ve come.

Daylight in the north

I understand that a lot of people don’t like Daylight Saving Time.  Its purpose is rather antiquated, it makes life a bit more complicated, the adjustment period is a pain . . . I even read an article, a few weeks ago, that said heart attacks are more common in the week following the time change.  I get it.  I, too, have always been of the mindset that we’re going to have a certain number of daylight hours, who cares what time of day they happen?

Living in Vienna, though, I care.  I care because my kids are already approaching 6:00 a.m. wake up times, and it’s still April.  By June, it’ll be full on daylight here just after 4:30 in the morning.  We have blackout curtains in the boys’ room, which help, but the curtains don’t silence the birds or stop little bit of light coming in around the door and window.  If not for Daylight Saving Time, my kids would be waking up now just after 5:00 a.m., and the sun would be up just after 3:30 in the morning in June.

Say what you like about Daylight Saving Time, but I’ll take my sunshine at 9:00 p.m. (which I actually find quite lovely) over 4:00 a.m. anytime (well, particularly in June).  Living at a more northerly latitude has given me a whole new appreciation for it.

Standard Time

We have Daylight Saving Time here in Austria, just like in the US, but it ends a week earlier, so we’re now 5 hours off from Eastern Time, instead of 6 . . . until next week, when we’ll be back at 6 again.  (I apologize, in advance, for anyone I call or text at an inappropriate time back in the States this week.)

Theoretically, this means that we got an extra hour of sleep last night, but since Liam is simultaneously teething and congested with a cold, there was very little sleep to be had around our house last night.  We will, however, be appreciating the shift in hours that the cessation of Daylight Saving Time provides — at least temporarily.  The kids have been sleeping in later and later in the mornings as the sunrise gets later.  This is great — it is a fantastic change from what we were experiencing in June and July:  morning waking times around 5 a.m. — however, since I have a hard time making myself wake a sleeping child, we’ve ended up with some rushed (and late) mornings recently.  Hopefully this will help get the kids up, and Dan to work, on time, more easily.  (For a while, at least.)

I can tell, though, after just one day of this schedule, that the evenings are going to take some getting used to.  By 4:30 today, dusk was starting to settle and it was truly dark by about 5:15.  For trick or treating tomorrow, it’ll be perfect — nice and dark before we even go out.  But dusk at 4:30 in October feels a little ominous — we have nearly 2 months of decreasing sunlight ahead of us.  It’s already noticeably different than what I’m used to.  The light here is beautiful — it’s like having morning or afternoon sun all day long.  The sun is never quite overhead — “high” noon really isn’t.

Soon, we’ll be getting up and leaving the house in the dark;  often coming home in the dark, as well.  As we move further into winter at this latitude, I know that each moment of sunlight will become increasingly precious to us.  We’ll be looking forward to the days of 5 a.m. sunrises very soon.