Monday, July 21, 2008

Nocturne for the Nocturnal

By Margy McCarthy

Several years ago, we used to go camping with some frequency. We would pack our gear and a weekend’s worth of groceries and head up into the mountains of Southern California, just a few hours’ drive out of the desert where we would enjoy a couple of days respite from the heat and hustle-bustle of our lives.

We weren’t the cold cereal and hot dogs brand of campers. We were the cook-real-food-from-scratch-over-the-fire, breakfast burritos in the morning and chicken and veggies in a foil pouch buried in the coals for dinner kind of campers.

I woke one morning to discover the raccoons had found their way into the (latched and weighted) food boxes and coolers. The bacon and sausages were gone, and my cheese was in a tree halfway up the hill.

Interestingly enough, that is almost exactly what my kitchen looked like this morning.

It is eight a.m. as I write these words, and both of my kids are sleeping. Before they drag themselves from their beds, I shall have written this post, folded two baskets of laundry, loaded the dishwasher, and set something out to thaw for dinner. There is also the remote possibility that I might bake a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, although these spurts of domesticity seem futile lately, as evidenced by the orange slice cookies I baked two days ago that were all MIA as of dinnertime yesterday.

I think they were eaten by raccoons.

My kids are still abed because they have become nocturnal this summer. I relax the rules during a vacation from school, and so long as they are both present- or at least accounted for- by the time I hit the hay, I do not impose a regular bedtime.

But this has gotten downright silly. They swoop through the darkness like bats. Like owls, without the mythical association to stolid wisdom. Like those pesky raccoons who sneak in and destroy a whole weekend’s worth of provisions in one fell swoop- leaving only tiny handprints to evidence their treachery. Once Sparky and I have called it a day, our little creatures of the night remain awake, watching TV, surfing the ‘net, coating the kitchen countertops with peanut butter and jelly…and eating all the cookies.

Dr. Spock warned me about this years ago, but he said it would happen when they were infants. As far as I can Google, he didn’t offer any suggestions for solving this problem with teens. So we’ll go with what information we have:

“When actively trying to switch a (new baby's) time clock, have bright lights on in the house during daylight hours. Keep up a steady stream of talking in normal conversational tones around your baby during the day. Play with her feet often, and make eye contact with her whenever you can.
“As soon as the sun begins to go down, purposely avoid all of these things. When you feed her, try not to make eye contact with her. Speak only in whispers or sing-song tones. Sing lullabies. Have the lights dim in the house. And don't stimulate their feet.”


Call me crazy, but I’m going to give it a try. I will not look at them during our candlelit dinner tonight, I will use my library voice, sing softly, and I will not under any circumstances tickle their feet after 9 p.m.

And tomorrow? I will wake them bright and early with a feather duster, a spotlight, and a bullhorn.

The raccoons will not prevail this time.

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