Dr. Nightowl or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Morning

I’ve always been a night owl. From as far back as I can remember, mornings have been something to endure before my real day starts. My parents and a long string of other type-a personalities have put consistent effort into changing me to no avail. It seems to be part of how I’m made and no amount of habit changing has been able to reverse my late-leaning circadian rhythm.

From getting terrible grades and dropping out of my college classes that started before 9 AM to working the early shift at Starbuck’s, where we tossed back espresso shots like junkies, mornings always remained a struggle. Even when I moved to Japan and the timezone was flipped by 12 hours, my body quickly sussed out day from night and made me pay for it with every 5:30 AM wakeup. I resigned myself to the life of the permanently tired night owl trapped in the working world dominated by morning people.

Then, near the end of 2008, everything changed. My daughter was born and with her arrival, my relationship with the morning was reset. As any parent will attest, a new baby = no sleep. Especially if they are your first. They break you and brainwash you and there is nothing you can do about it. Very little memory remains of what my life was like before my daughter and I’m oddly OK with that.

The interesting side effect of my daughter’s mind control was how quickly she was able to accomplish what no job or more-productive-than-thou shaming ever had. I was still a night owl but I no longer cared about how early it was because I was just so thrilled to see her happy. She would cry, I would plod my way over to her, she would smile and all was right with this wonderful new world. The other day, she turned five. She woke up early but I can tell that she’s probably going to be a night owl like me. We stumble out to the kitchen. I grab the pancake mix and click on a burner. She folds her arms against the morning chill. Neither of us talks or opens our eyes much but we are happy for the time together, no matter how early that happens to be.

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