Daylight Saving Time is proof we hate parents

It's not just the sudden change in schedule that upsets kids. They know something we don't

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published March 10, 2023 12:01PM (EST)

Father comforting crying baby (Getty Images/Andersen Ross)
Father comforting crying baby (Getty Images/Andersen Ross)

If you haven't prepared it may already be too late. That's the advice given by sleep medicine experts about that most dreaded of times, Daylight Saving. Experts like Daniel Lewin, PhD, recommend easing children into the abrupt waking up in total darkness thing by incrementally adjusting their bedtimes, 15 minutes at a time, several nights in advance before the cursed day when the clocks shift.

That day is this Sunday. It's here.

Like a horror film franchise, Daylight Saving Time is coming for us. Again. And this time of year, it's the worst, the spring ahead, that gleefully, maddeningly named process where we lose an hour, setting clocks forward. Most adults loathe it. As CNN reported in 2021, only 28% of Americans want to continue switching back and forth, trying to figure out blinking dashboard and oven clocks, from Daylight Saving to Standard Time. But children? The younger set stage all-out riots, their bodies, hearts and minds protesting as (usually) only children can: basically, screaming and not sleeping

Why do parents and families with young children hate Daylight Saving Time so much? I think the question is rather, why do you hate us so much to do this to us, America? 

Today's Parent writes, "Nothing is designed to screw with us more than changing the clocks." If you're a parent, or if you're been to a family function or party where a young child is present, you know the lengths guardians will go to preserve an established bedtime. They'll bring pack n' plays, special toys and blankets. They'll leave parties early, desperate to outrace the clock and get a kid to their own bed in time.   

When my child was a baby, I remember trying to schedule a doctor's appointment, and the only time left was in the middle of his nap. I mentioned that, but said the appointment was fine and we'd just skip the nap that morning. The doctor closed his eyes, as if I had physically pained him. "One day you'll learn to protect the nap at all costs," he said.

The schedule is sacred when it comes to the difficult task of raising a child, and nowhere is it more urgent than sleep. An established bedtime routine is crucial — like having a snack, taking a bath, reading a book – in the same order and at the same time every night. Daylight Saving throws a huge wrench in the well-oiled gears of parenting. Parents writes, "Your child is now dealing with a change in schedule that might throw them off." (Every guardian you know is giving a side-eye to that might.) 

How do kids deal with the sky suddenly being dark when they awake — or not nearly dark enough when it's time for them to go to bed? Not well. Not well at all. It throws many children into total chaos, causing them to wake up hours early or stay up, confused, exhausted and upset over why the clock is lying to them.

Do you want to know what it's like to live among zombies, as in "The Last of Us"? Spend time with tiny children whose world has been plunged into dark anarchy. The mushroom-headed monsters are probably less upset. Author and Psychotherapist Dr. Katie Hurley wrote on Twitter, "Ah, Daylight Savings Time. It's like having jet lagged kids for a week without the fun trip to show for it."

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Children respond worse than adults do to the seemingly random change in routine, but kids are also canaries in the coal mine when it comes to inexplicable adult nonsense. They can sense when we don't believe what we're telling them, like that skipping an hour ahead in spring is a good thing, important for . . . farmers? (As a member of a farming family, going back generations, I call BS on that — don't blame the people who grow your food.) Daylight Saving Time is confusing —  and most parents are going to be so sleep-deprived by next week, the questions, tears and complaints of their offspring will begin to form a strange, exhausted logic. What is time? Why do we even sleep? Will we ever sleep again indeed? 

Kids point out as ridiculous what adults accept as normal. It's inexplicable, unacceptable. And they won't stand for it. Good luck and goodnight to everyone with kids this weekend. 

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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Children Commentary Daylight Saving Time Parenthood Parenting Time