Wikipedia, 'Sundowning': A person who is sundowning may exhibit mood swings, become abnormally demanding, suspicious, upset or disoriented, and see or hear things that are not there in the late afternoon and evening.
This definition normally applies to those in their golden years. But, in our house, the hours between sunset and sunrise trigger shifts in emotions and behaviors in us all.
In the dark of the winter evening, after the hustle of the day fades, each of us anticipates the hours ahead with their unique senses of need, resistance, and anticipation.
By the time night time encroaches, the adults are eager for tranquility, both mental and physical. We're thirsty for quiet after wading in responsibility since before sunrise that day. That state can manifest itself in the form of impatience and restlessness towards the children. But can also create a closeness, a magnification of the parental instinct to hold and nurture them.
The Boy and the Girl can be manic, emotional, playful, defiant, loving, or a mosaic of them all. The sun has set, and fatigue and playfulness are battling within them beyond their capacity to control them.
My son consistently rises minutes after I leave his room with his nightly 'affliction': it ranges from growing pains in his shin to a headache, a tummy ache, an unquenched thirst, or an ambiguous inability simply to get comfortable in his bed. The subtext to it all is constant: night has arrived, but he's not yet ready to greet it. He's overpowered by a child's simple need for a moment or two more of reassurance from his parent. This can be as simple as a piggy-back to his bed, to having his head rubbed while he lies on the sofa by my side until the next commercial.
Once the ritual is complete, sleep comes easily.
My daughter's nature is more restless. Her routine is short: a story, a short song, a kiss, sleep. Her nights, however, can be complicated. She frequently wakes, whimpering and tearful, anxious after a nightmare. "What was your dream?" I ask.
"I was alone." is a recurring theme. Occasional she'll speak of a monster, but mostly the fear was mommy or daddy not being there when she sought them.
She's quickly soothed by a hug, another kiss, or by holding my hand to her cheek for a short while.
I'm fascinated by the irony that this girl, whose fibre is so fearless by day - much more so than her older sibling - is so discomposed during sleep.
Is her subconscious storing this anxiety? Is it pushing it aside while she's awake, allowing more room for her courage, cockiness and cheekiness to lead her through her waking hours?
As for me, sunset brings reflection and a need for relaxation when I'm alone. It may be physiological, physiological, or both; I find it hard to motivate myself for anything but a peaceful resistance of responsibility.
I enjoy listening to the sounds the house makes when it's quiet: the hum of the furnace, the wind nudging a beam here, a window there. It seems almost as though our home is aware of the day's travails and is itself at a state of rest.
The onset of night never increases my mood swings, nor does it make me demanding, or disoriented.
But, I am more likely to become introspective, perhaps emotional, as I'm released from daylight.
The children can become upset and disoriented; either through their dreams or the restless moments before sleep takes over.
Morning always brings with it those same little faces, now refreshed and eager; little bodies which hop and skip from one part of their day to the next the way only children do.
But on occasion, when twelve hours later the sun goes down, we each become affected by our own sprinkling of Sundowners.