Tag Archives: homework

Go to sleep! (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

Before my husband and I married, we often babysat our nieces and nephews. We continued after marriage as we tried for our own children. Babysitting gave us ample opportunities to test out our “parenting skills” before messing up  raising our own kids. It also gave me several chances to see what kind of father my husband might be to our own children. (He was, and still is, like a big kid around children. One of the many things I love about him.)

Of all the memories we have from those days, the one that triggers the most giggles is the day we spent with his 3-year-old niece. After a long morning of play, the little whip decided it was time for her “baby” to take a nap. She laid her doll ever so gently on the bed and whispered “Go to sleep” before tip-toeing out the door. She quietly stepped down the hall before abruptly stopping. Letting out a very audible sigh, she turned around and headed back to the bedroom. She cracked the door and authoritatively scolded, “Go to sleep!” Presumably, the doll fussed because our gentle, smiling niece transformed into a drill Sargent and commanded the doll to “Go To Sleep!” She slammed the door shut before tip-toeing down the hall once again. We watched as she lifted a finger to her lips and told us, “Sshhh, baby is sleeping.” Apparently, our loud snickers awoke the sleeping babe. With a huff and a glare, the little mama marched to the bedroom, all but kicked the door down, and screamed, “GO TO SLEEP!!”  That afternoon I laughed so hard my belly hurt.

Despite her abrasive technique, our niece may have demonstrated parental wisdom beyond her years. As any mom or dad will tell you, babies/children need sleep. Even total strangers know this. They’ll ask, “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” Pediatricians inquire about nap schedules. Daycare providers detail napping routines. And, I don’t know about today, but when I was little even my kindergarten schedule included a rest/nap time.

I remember when my girls transitioned from two naps to one and from one nap to a simple “quiet time.”  Despite their resistance, I knew they still needed the quiet time. I drug those days out as long as I could. In part, for my own survival. A sleep deprived toddler can easily draw impatient scolds from the most patient of mothers. But, the rants and disrespect of a sleep deprived teen can drive a silenced monk to scream from a mountain top.  I’m no monk, but boy have I been there!

As the parent of two teens, nap-times are long behind us, but I know my teens still need their sleep. I was first educated 13 years ago when my husband and I attended a seminar called, “Toddlers to Teens.” The lecturing doctor offered insight into the parallel paths of brain and body development between the toddler and teen years, highlighting the similarities between their physical and emotional needs–including sleep. Ask any parent and they’ll share the dire consequences of a toddler’s missed nap or restless night. It often takes more than a day or two to reset the routine. Given the opportunity, most teens will snore through an entire Saturday to catch up on a week’s worth of lost sleep –until it’s time to see friends, that is. Like toddlers, it often takes a day or two to reset a teen’s body clock. Yep, toddlers and teens are that similar.

I’m often accused of treating my teens like “little kids” and of being overly controlling. Sometimes my teen accusers are right. Though I have learned to choose my parenting battles more wisely, an enforced 10:15 “lights out” time on school nights is one I have yet to surrender. Our school day begins at 7:15, and experience has taught me my kids still need 8+ hours of sleep, despite their protests. Homework comes before any TV, computer, phone/texting or “free reading” time, and is hopefully complete before I tell the girls to head up to bed. I’m often challenged on this rule by my high school senior. Understandably so. But, now I have the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on my side.

According to a recent study of 12,000 high school teens, almost 70 % reported they got less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep on school nights. Some parents will argue that their teens’ homework load leaves them no choice. While often true, the consequences  may be greater than the admission to an Ivy League school. As reported in a CDC news release, kids that sleep less than 8 hours per night are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than their peers who sleep 8+ hours per night. Sleep deprived teens are more likely to have sex, smoke, both cigarettes and marijuana, drink alcohol, and contemplate suicide. Additionally, they are more likely to lead sedentary lifestyles and get into fights.

Honestly, I don’t think the study suggests that one late night, or even a week’s worth, would cause teens to smoke a joint or take a drink. High school homework loads often require the burning of midnight oil. My girls have had many late nights finishing a project or studying for exams. They should; there are realities in life, and “Unmet due dates have consequences” is just one of them. However, Facebook, texting, TV, etc. do not warrant late bedtimes on school nights in our house. Teens often think they’re indestructible and sadly neglect their need for sleep. The potential pitfalls of consistent late nights/early mornings appears irrefutable, but I don’t need 12,000 teens to tell me about the consequences. I need only look into the drawn faces of my girls to know the price paid for a late night: their ability to function with reason and good attitudes. Left unchecked, the price could be much higher, one I am unwilling to let my kids pay.  So for now, I’ll follow the drill Sargent example set by my niece many years ago and tell my girls to “Go to sleep!” at 10:15.

How do you deal with your teen’s late nights?
To read the CDC news release, click here: Sleepy Teens Prone to Bad Behaviors, Study Finds – healthfinder.gov

Is it summer—yet?

Sam Cooke once sang, “Summertime and the living is easy.” He must have had teens. He must have weathered the “end of the school year” bedraggled blues. How else could he sing those words with such feeling–such prophecy? His soulful voice lures us in; high cotton, jumping fish, and easy living…..

But first, we have to survive these last few weeks of school, of homework, of nagging, of exhaustion. This is the time of year that every student, parent and teacher both praises and curses. It is the home stretch of a school year when patience is thinner than pond ice in the springtime and tempers flare like cheap fireworks.  It is the time of year mothers (and perhaps fathers) ask why they didn’t eat their young when they had the chance. It’s the time when “higher reasoning” ceases to separate adult from child–everyone just wants to live easy.

As evidence, I share with you the conversation I had with my teen this past Saturday. The “teen speak” has been translated for those not yet fluent.

Me: Can you believe we are in the home stretch of the school year? (My not so subtle ice breaker.)
Teen: I guess. (Translation: Do we really have to talk about this so early this morning?)
Me: Hey, don’t you have some homework this weekend? (Yes, leading question and a poor attempt at sounding casual, but it was already past 11.)
Teen: I know. (Translation: Not even subtle and you just put homework and weekend in a sentence together–LAME!)
Me: Were you planning on starting it soon? (Yes, leading, again.)
Teen: I guess. (Translation: Uh no, I wasn’t planning on it, so no not really.)
Me: Don’t wait until the last minute. It’ll be a lot easier if you get it out-of-the-way today so you can enjoy the rest of the weekend. (Translation: I don’t want to police you ALL weekend.)
Teen: I knoooooow. (Eyes rolling–no translation needed)
Me: You know I want your homework done before anything else. No movies, no cell, no anything. (Translation: You’re pushing my buttons, Miss Sassy Pants!)
Teen: I know. (Contrite tone. Translation: Will you leave me alone now?)
Me: If you know, why am I not seeing any effort made? (Yes, I know–this is a no win question. Apparently she did, too.)
Teen: (silence)
Me: Do you really know? Because if it’s not done, you lose everything. I’m not going to nag. (Disregard that I am, in fact, nagging at this point.)
Teen: (silence) (Teens are really good at “Stand-Off” games. Just be warned.)
Me: Are you listening? (At this point, I’m pretty sure neighbors were listening.)
Teen: Okaaaaay! (Translation: Are we done now?)
Me: I can’t believe we are doing this dance again! Do you understand how serious I am? (Of course, I can believe we are doing this again–it’s our regular “homework tango.”)
Teen: I guess. (Translation: Uh, ya–seriously messing up my Saturday morning!)
Me: I don’t think you do. I think I am the only that really cares here! (At this point, I honestly don’t think I cared, but I wasn’t about to let her see, or give in.)
Teen: Noooo. Jeeesh. (Translation: You care enough for a whole stupid village! None of my other friends have to put up with this!)
Me: Are you at all concerned about getting this done? (Back to a leading question.)
Teen: I guess. (Translation: Will that get you off my back? Please!)
Me: You guess! YOU GUESS! Is that all you have to say? (I admit–I had run out of ammo.)
Teen: I don’t know. (She had run out of ammo, too.)

                                       (Long pause of silence on both parts.)

Teen: Can I go now? I have to get my homework done. (Translation: Almost summer, almost summer, almost summer!)
Me: Sure, honey. Would you like me to fix you something to eat? (Translation: Almost summer, almost summer, almost summer!)

Sadly , it seems conversations like this comprise the bulk of our dialogues this time of year. Just yesterday afternoon, as I reminded my darling daughter to (once again) finish off some homework, I received a very forlorn, beaten puppy, “Okaaaaay” in response. I know that, like me, she is running out of steam and is just hanging on by her fingertips.

We may think it’s the heat that makes for lazy days in summer, but really it’s the hard-earned reward for parents and children. Schedules ease up, lemonade and watermelon become staples in the fridge, swimsuits are the daily uniform and time goes unmonitored. It is that time that celebrates the closing of one school year and re-fuels us for the next.

I trust Sam Cooke when he promises,  “Summertime and the living is easy.” I also believe him as he sings, “One of these mornings, you’re going to rise up singing. Then you’ll spread your wings and take to the sky.”

That is, of course, if I don’t push both teens out of the nest before this school year is over. 🙂

Set to the fabulous stylings of Sam Cooke’s “Summertime”, here is a sneak peek at summer for the bedraggled: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWmGAR4_jRg