By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Last night as I pulled back the covers to climb into bed, I realized what has happened. In a sense, Tom and I have traded places with our three kids.
A decade ago – when the kids were 7, 5 and 2 – we were the ones eager to get them to bed so we could sit down and relax, reduce the noise level in the house, and maybe watch a show or two on TV. We looked forward to that window of time between eight and eleven o’clock at night so we could have a conversation uninterrupted by requests for a juice box.
But these days, with two teenage boys and one almost-teenage girl in the house, things are different. Even though Tom and I are natural night owls, our stamina can’t compete with the kids. Last night we trudged off to bed, tired and sleepy, a little after 11 p.m. But the kids had caught a second wind and were settling in on the sofa to binge-watch a show on Netflix.
“How did this happen?” I asked Tom as I pulled the covers up to my chin. “We used to be the ones watching TV on the sofa while the kids went to bed upstairs. Now we’re up here, and I bet they’re down there feeling happy that we finally went to bed so they can have the TV to themselves.”
He shrugged his shoulders and turned off the lamp. “I just hope they remember to turn off the lights before they go to bed,” he said.
Certain they’d forget, I picked up the phone and fired off a group text to our offspring, reminding them to turn off lights on the way upstairs and imploring them not to stay up too late.
(And yes, I’m fully aware of how ridiculous it sounds to text people who are inside your own house. But as anyone with a kid will tell you, the teenage brain has a surprising ability to tune out the sound of a parent’s voice, yet it’s highly attuned to the “ping” of an incoming text message.)
I knew the whole “don’t stay up too late” instruction wasn’t likely to be taken seriously. At this point in the summer break, the kids have gone “full nocturnal.” I’m not sure when they go to sleep these days because I’ve already been asleep at least an hour or so before it happens. I do know, however, that their morning routine is now an afternoon one. Left undisturbed to hibernate in their caves, we rarely see the three teenage hedgehogs roll out of bed before the crack of noon. And it only happens at that time because hunger has lured them toward the kitchen.
Every morning I consider dragging them out of bed at a more reasonable hour, but then I remember my own teenage summer breaks and how luxurious it felt to stay in bed and sleep. It was one of my favorite parts of summer – the freedom to just “be,” versus the constant “go-go-go” of the school year. So, most of the time I let sleeping teens lie, knowing that, in just a month, they’ll return to the academic grind.
When they do, it’ll be a school year full of homework, deadlines, tests, science projects, band practice, school plays, quiz bowl tournaments, and even college applications for our oldest. Until then, we’re enjoying a leisurely summer break – when the rules are loose, the Wi-Fi is strong, and the sleeping is easy.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at email@example.com. Her book is available on Amazon.