I was recently asked whether the ‘White Nights’ had made it harder to get the kids to sleep this summer.
The White Knight?
Armoured men on noble steeds rode through my mind, carrying out chivalrous deeds in the name of courtly love. But blessed with a writer’s sense for context, I suspected these weren’t the ‘nights’ they meant. Only monsters, tyrants and inattentive husbands need lose sleep over them.
Directed to a recent edition of CPH POST, I educated myself on the homophonous phenomenon in question. I learned that ‘White Nights’ are those long summer evenings, enjoyed here from May to August, when the sun never dips more than 18 degrees below the horizon and its light is always visible.
The question, then, was whether this heavenly, ever-present sun was hell for a nanny trying to convince sceptical children that it’s bedtime.
It’s natural to think this would be the case, but the stars aligned to make the night sky a thing of little concern to me this summer.
Clocking off forever
Whether it’s of great concern to anyone nowadays is unclear. Most cities are too lit up to see the stars from, aligned or not. The sooner sunlight fades, the sooner those lights go on. I would go so far as to suggest, like an inverted Copernicus, that our world doesn’t revolve around the sun at all.
Consider the millions who work around the diurnal clock to conduct business and relationships with folks on the other side of the globe, or who party all night under flashes of artificial light.
The miracle of electricity means we needn’t arrange our lives around the hours of local daylight. And the reality of our socially and commercially hyper-connected globe means many people don’t.
Sons of Device
This is all obvious stuff. Less obvious perhaps is that children, with no business to conduct or parties to keep them up, seem to have lives more detached from the sun than anyone. The amount of visible light in the sky is so removed from the concerns of most kids today as to be almost irrelevant.
Their world revolves around a different star: the brilliant, celestial ‘Device’. When its screen is shining brightly, however dark the sky, they have all they need to keep going all night. Once the screen goes dark, it doesn’t matter how light it is outside, they’ll head to bed, tuck themselves in and call it a day.
It’s an unpopular truth that tablets, smartphones and consoles provide some of the most exciting, enjoyable (and dare I say, educational) parts of kids’ lives. Being an active chap and a good millennial, I protest against this, berating them for their inferior lifestyle and lecturing them on the superiority of mine.
But while we would rather our young leaders of tomorrow got their kicks running through wheat fields, this relationship with technology has an upside that should be popular with parents everywhere: the Sun doesn’t have an off button; an iPad does.
Personally, I have no time for devices, despite what ‘Screen Time’ on my iPhone claims. The children are the stars around which my world revolves – a world that somehow kept spinning this summer as they aligned themselves 10,000 km from me. While they went to Skagen, I went to Central America, rendering the White Nights in Denmark as unimportant to me as any efforts to get them to bed.
Skagen, as it happens, is the part of Denmark where the nights get whiter first and darker last. But the real impact on their bedtime will have been the absence of my controlling hand on their devices. For all I know, they haven’t slept since I left them.