Astana is, by far, the most northern place we've ever lived. Brandon and I have, surprisingly, spent a lot of our marriage hanging out around 40 degrees north, only dipping below when we in Cairo, at 30 degrees north. Astana, by contrast is at 51 degrees north, about the same latitude as London and Calgary. Each degree of latitude is about 69 miles, so we've moved about 700 miles north of our usual stomping grounds.
Being this north has the expected effect of making everything a lot colder. Winters here are very cold, summers aren't that hot, and the cold lasts several months more than we're used to. I was mentally prepared for the winter, but I wasn't prepared for the extended spring that really didn't give way to warmer days until the end of May.
I also knew that being further north would have an effect on daylight hours. Because of Astana's place in the timezone, the sun rises pretty late in the winter. At winter solstice, the sun wouldn't creep above the horizon until almost 9:30 in the morning, an hour into our school day. It wasn't as bad in the evening, with the sun setting just past 5 pm.
What I hadn't considered about daylight hours is the effect it's had on the summertime sunlight hours. I knew that it would make for nice, long summer evenings. I love long summer evenings, those times when winter is a distant memory and it feels like the lazy days will last forever. We live in a neighborhood that is pleasant to walk in, so Brandon and I will often take evening walks after the kids are in bed and enjoy being outside when it is both light and warm.
I knew that the summertime evenings would be long, but I didn't realize exactly how long they would be. I'm writing this around 8:30 in the evening, and the sunshine is still coming into my western-facing windows. The sun won't set until just past 9:30 and the last vestiges of light don't leave the sky until around 10:30 at night. We're still ten days away from summer solstice (the saddest day of the year as the light starts going away), so we haven't reached peak daylight hours quite yet.
Usually, I'm a pretty strict bedtime person. Half of the house is awake by 5 am, so everyone needs to get to sleep reasonably early. I still have younger children, and they're much happier when they've gotten enough sleep. Also, I want to have a little bit of downtime before my own bedtime - and that downtime doesn't happen when children are still partying. I even send my high schoolers to their rooms by 8:30 or so - they'll often stay up talking or reading past that time, but they're shut in pretty early. I know that Kathleen is in for a huge shock when she goes to college next year and is introduced into the world of late night everything.
But these long summertimes evenings have made me have to readjust my early bedtime policies. It feels like such a criminal waste of precious summer daylight to make everyone bundle off to bed when the sun is still pouring in the windows. The winter is so long and so dark that I feel like we have to utilize every opportunity we have to be outside and enjoying flip-flop weather.
Even if I wanted to send everyone off to bed at their regular hour, it would be pretty hard to convince them all it was sleep time when their circadian rhythms were saying something else entirely. You can tell them to sleep, but it won't do much good if they're not actually sleepy.
So I've decided that we have a more seasonal approach to bedtimes. During the long, dark, cold winters, bed is the only reasonable place to be in the evening. It's cozy, it's warm (although our house isn't anything like cold in the winter), and it's the logical place to be. But in the summer, it's time to relax and enjoy the beautiful long evenings. School is out, the kids don't have to get up so early, and everyone can enjoy summertime when the living is easy. Winter will come soon enough, so we might as enjoy what we can while we can - and that most definitely includes long summer evenings.