Parenting after dark
Parenting after dark
Scott Dunlop

Depending on the time of year your child was born, you may have had a similar experience to mine. My kids have always (for the most part) gone to bed quite early. Their early years were governed by a routine which was there for sanity’s sake as much as anything else. But I do remember my son’s first moment of awe upon seeing the night sky.

It wasn’t the first time he’d seen the night, of course, but it was the first time it struck a chord with him. If your child is born in summer or autumn, chances are they won’t be aware of the stars and moon for at least a year, maybe even two.

I can’t remember what the occasion was. It could have been an evening out at a friend’s place for a braai. He was probably wearing his slippers and PJs. It was on the way home that the immense darkness and the swollen light of the moon took over. We’ve seen thousands of moonrises and sunsets, but, for a child, there’s magic in the night sky.

The sky is best explored from a remote campsite, far away from the ambient glow of the city lights. If you can’t camp out, find a field or a beach nearby and take your kids for a bit of moon bathing. Most calendars will tell you when to expect a full moon, if that’s what you want to see. You can have a late picnic and enjoy the dark. Include made-up bedtime stories for even more memories.

There’s nothing quite as pleasurable as watching the sun set from a strategic place. South Africa has no shortage of spots to catch the sun melting into the horizon in all the shades of orange, red, purple and blue.

One of the back-handed benefits of parenting is that you’re generally up at dawn. A few minutes extra and you and your children can chase the sunrise. It can be chilly, but throw in some flasks of hot chocolate and it’s not so bad. What’s great about dawn is that the light for taking photographs is spectacular.

If you spend some time exploring the world around you after dark, it may even help your kids to overcome any fears they have of the shadows in their rooms. The dressing gown on the back of the door will cease to be a terrifying spectre and the things that go bump in the night can be pointed out: there’s the tree that scrapes on the corrugated roof of the shed, and that howling noise is just a gust of wind in the chimney.

Parenting isn’t a daylight-only task, but I know I haven’t made the most of parenting after dark. Bring on the night!

What’s the strangest nightmare your child has ever told you about? Share your stories with us to chatback@parent24.com and you could win a R250 kalahari.comvoucher.

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