In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Elsewhere
  2. Mary on Classic Writing
  3. Foreign Aid
  4. Bedtime
  5. The Future According to Me
  6. Decline and Fall of the Classical Face
  7. Bagatelles
  8. Another Technical Note
  9. La Ligne Maginot
  10. Actress Notes

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« The Future According to Me | Main | Foreign Aid »

March 15, 2006


Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Bedtime discipline for kids has gone to hell over the years. But it might be improving for adults. Here is some rock-solid anecdotal evidence.

(Before continuing, I want you to solemnly promise not to stop reading when you see the words "back when I was a boy." Got that? No crossed fingers either: I want a real promise. Good.)

Back when I was a boy, maybe up to age 8, my mother would have me in bed by 8 p.m. Lights out, no radio. Except that when I did get a radio I'd play it at extremely low volume. Being a parent, my mother probably knew or suspected what was going on but tolerated it for some reason; in any case I'd be asleep by nine most of the time anyway.

As I got older, I was allowed to stay up later and later. But I was sensible and never abused the privilege even when high-school age.

I never was much of a night-owl. The latest I consistently stayed up was two in the morning. This was during the four months between college graduation and entering the Army. I'd stay up to watch Jack Paar on the Tonight show which aired from 11:30 till one. (In the process I got my fill of talk-show TV; Paar and his guests were good, but nevertheless became tiring.) After Paar was over, I'd go to my bedroom and read for another hour or so, turn off the light, go to sleep and wake up around nine in the morning.

In the years following the Army I usually turned off the light around 11 and would be up by 7. When my son had a paper route I got in the habit of waking up at 5 or 5:30, a habit I continue because I arrive at work at 7:30, take a half-hour lunch, then leave shortly after four.

With great difficulty my own children went to bed as early as an hour or two later than my childhood schedule. All the while they protested that their friends' parents let them stay up till midnight or whenever. When my son got through college and entered an endless period of job-hunting, he'd stay up until three or four in the morning and sleep in nearly to noon. As best I can tell, he was pretty typical of his generation.

So much for kids. Why is it that I think it's different for adults? Traffic.

In the late 1970s and early 80s I'd sometimes stay over at my parents' house in Seattle before a flight and my dad would drive me to the airport in the morning. At six o'clock traffic was light. Years before, the morning commute was barely underway by seven. Nowadays traffic on Interstate 5 through little old Olympia is flowing strongly by 5:30 in the morning, heading north to Fort Lewis, Tacoma and Seattle. By six, cars can be packed solid on I-5 between Tacoma and Seattle. This is due to the fact that the Seattle area does not have enough freeways. Because of the heavy traffic, the commute-period has expanded and more and more workers are on flex-time. Those thousands of drivers on the road at 5:30 probably have to be asleep by 9:30 or 10 in the evening, as I am, in order to function tolerably well at work.

Thus the return to bedtime discipline. For some, anyway.



posted by Donald at March 15, 2006


Your story juxtaposed with the recent news about sleeping pills is quite daunting. I've experienced that rush hour coming into Seattle and it's daunting. The year I lived in Kirkland, we could see the Evergreen Bridge from the church. Packed. An accident a day. A serious injury a week. A death a month. Yet the cars move so slowly it's hard to see how they could get up enough momentum to do damage.

Once I drove down the Pacific Coast and one morning rose in time for breakfast in Sausalito at a cafe that overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge. Packed and speeding. I asked the waitress when rush hour was over. "9:13" she said. She was exactly right.

But I have the habit of getting up at 5AM also. In summer that's when I start the sprinklers because we have to shut them off at 10AM or the town wells go dry. In winter it's 4AM because of daylight savings. No sprinklers. But I find it pleasant. Quiet. No traffic. If the window is open I can hear the 18-wheelers who plow through the night for their own reasons -- they come from miles away, barely slow down (we don't have a prohibition on "Jake brakes" so if they do slow, it's loud), and then go away, reversing the Doppler effect. After the paper comes and I've read it or, lacking the paper, a little web cruising, I go back to bed. Get up again about 9AM, a civilized hour.

Someone told me this is an old pattern, going back to the Paleolithic when someone had to get up and put more wood on the fire.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on March 15, 2006 09:38 PM

I stay up until 1 am on weekdays and get up about 6:15 am. That's not much sleep, but fortunately I seem to manage okay. What helps is the fact that most of my commuting is via train, which while a thoroughly hateful experience in most respects, at least does not require much in the line of mental alertness. And of course I get up later on weekends.

Posted by: Peter on March 15, 2006 10:05 PM

I was the youngest child and therefore thoroughly despised my 8:30 pm bedtime as a child, certain I was missing out on great stuff after I had to go to bed. I consistently attempted to 'stretch' my time up past my bedtime, much to my parents' frustration. It was probably the most rebellious thing I did as a kid, was to consistently attempt to circumvent having to go to bed. Now of course I frequently conk out by about 8:30 pm and am certain I'm missing very little!! :)

Posted by: annette on March 16, 2006 10:01 AM

When I was young my parents had me in bed by 8:00 and were inflexible about this. It was especially distressing to me during the summer months when it was still light out and I could hear the sounds of my neighbor's children playing next door. Additionally, they thought it was strange that I would be out of bed by 5;00 am and running around the house. If only there had been more on televison then other than the show "Howdy Neighbor" which seemed to cater to the farming community.

Posted by: al on March 16, 2006 12:55 PM

The other advantage of putting the kids to bed is that the parents get some adult time before they have to collapse themselves.

Posted by: CyndiF on March 16, 2006 02:22 PM

Exactly, Cyndi -- if I'm inflexible about bedtime, it's because I feel I'm entitled to a little time by myself or with my partner. My son argued about bedtime for *years* until he suddenly turned around and would all on his own (at age 17+) announce at, say, 9:30 that he was going to bed. My stepdaughter insists that on non-school nights she gets to stay up as late as she wants, but uh-uh. Nope.

My partner has awakened me to the pleasures of getting up at 6 and having some leisurely time for coffee and the paper (we don't leave the house until about 8). Previously, I would always set the alarm for as late as possible and then rush around and out the door, but I'm liking sitting with my loved one, sipping coffee and chatting over the morning news. Of course, we're often in bed by 9:30 or 10:00, in order to wake up that early.

Posted by: missgrundy on March 16, 2006 03:45 PM

What is all this? isn't anyone else a night owl? I go to bed at 5 AM, when my favorite radio show, "Coast to Coast with George Noory" ends (it's about UFOs, psychics, ESP, witchcraft, nanotechnology, space, and what-have-you). Then it's a good day when I get up by 12 noon.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on March 16, 2006 11:32 PM

I have the same reason for being inflexible on bedtime as Cyndi. Our oldest, who is 12, goes to bed at 9:00 on school nights, which is when I went to bed at his age, solely because my wife and I would like some alone time. He HATES it, mostly because many of his friends have almost no strict bedtime. When he started spending the night at friends' houses at around 7 years of age, we were appalled to learn that most of the time, the kids would stay up ALL NIGHT. That is not an exageration. His friends' parents would set them up in an extra room with video games, etc., and then go to bed with the kids STILL UP. That does not happen at our house.

The expanding rush hour is indicative of a larger trend of showing up ridiculously early to everything so as to ensure some kind of cosmic pole position. Case in point: swimming lessons. At our public pool, people start lining up for registration at around 2 in the morning. By 6, if you're not in line, your kids don't get registered for the limited number of spaces. Has this always been the way? I'm genuinely curious.

Posted by: the patriarchy on March 17, 2006 01:41 PM

I've got to say, I've always been annoyed by the people (I'm not referring to anyone here) who argue that getting up early is somehow better than being a late-riser. It's just not, not if it isn't your natural rhythm.

Oh, and as far as a 12-year-old going to bed at 9, that may be OK at that age, but as your son gets a little older, he is going to have real trouble going to bed that early. See, as just one example, here:
If you look at any research on sleep, you'll see that teenagers are naturally going to fall asleep later than young children or adults, and it's not because they are lazy, or because of TV, or whatever. It's biology.

Incidentally, schools which have moved to later start and finish times have seen achievment and scores go up, and dropout rates go down.

I'm sure some people would say that "Hey, I made it to school at 7 am, so kids today could do." But science and research say that's just wrong.

Posted by: Chris on March 17, 2006 03:10 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?