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|Bedtimes with Teenagers
|As I get older, my bedtime seems to get earlier. I mean I could try to stay up but it would only happen with a nap somewhere along the line. I remember when I was a teenager and my parents would stay up and watch late night talk shows and Saturday Night Live. I didn’t realize it back then – but they were taking a nap somewhere in there.
My husband and I have had a back and forth conversation over the past year or so about bedtimes and teenagers. We usually have the conversation about 10:00 pm when we are in bed settling down for the night to watch a bit of television before calling it a night. The topic pops up because we notice that our teenagers are still up wandering around the house. It is a different time in our lives for sure. Having children awake when you go to bed is a weird feeling.
It is still easy to tell our 12 year old and 10 year old that they need to be in bed by a certain time and lights out at a certain time. But we find it to be one of those gray areas with our teenagers. I don’t recall my parents giving me a bedtime during the summer. There were other rules though. No telephone past 10:00pm. Things like that. I remember wanting to be in my room. Listening to music. Reading. Homework. Whatever. But rarely did they tell me to go to bed. I would just be in my room and asleep before my parents ever went to bed. (Besides there was very little to do late at night prior to the world of computers and cell phones.)
During the summer, teenage bedtimes were not really implemented. They had a curfew to be inside and no longer running out in the neighborhood. But not a time to be in bed. We found them staying up watching television, playing Call of Duty with friends on Xbox, chatting on Facebook into the late night hours of 1 or 2 in the morning. My husband and I would still head upstairs at our usual 10:00pm slot. We would hear the opening of doors, cabinets, refrigerator, pantry door, feet up and down the stairs and even occasionally the garage door. My husband asks, “What are they doing?” It can be distracting.
Now that school has started we are trying to reach a reasonable agreement for them to be in bed. Most nights they are tired during the week since they have football practice right after school. But our dilemma will probably fall predominantly on weekends. That being said, we know we need to lay down a rule regarding school nights and weekends during the school year. Especially with the technological advances that allow them to be endlessly and eternally “social”.
Saturday night the boys were all out playing “Manhunt”, a modern day form of hide and seek, with a crew from the neighborhood. We told them they had to be in the house by 10:30 p.m. – we don’t love the idea of teenagers just randomly running the neighborhood unsupervised late into the night. Additionally, we had had a long day and frankly didn’t feel like staying up late and waiting for them to come home, knowing there had been no Manhunt casualties that evening. Our Saturdays are pretty full. This particular day had been filled with Nutcracker rehearsal, football practice, an actual football game, birthday shopping for a party the next day, manicures/pedicures, and waverunning on the Chesapeake. Surely it was not ridiculous for my husband and I to be ready for bed at our usual 10 pm. So there we laid feeling drowsy but hesitant to allow ourselves to fall asleep because the moment we did the garage door would open and rowdy teenagers would be raiding the kitchen. We found ourselves annoyed and that bedtime conversation arose again.
So when Sunday night arrived my husband and I headed up the stairs at 10 pm. We get settled. Television on low. Lights off. Ready to go to sleep to prepare for the start of another Monday morning. We both agree that it’s time to turn off the television. Shortly after, we hear the footsteps. In and out of the bathroom. Flushing the toilets. Refrigerator door opened. Closed. Into the laundry room, checking the dryer. In and out of their bedrooms. The next thing we know one of them is walking into our bedroom – into the master bathroom – hunting for the Aloe Vera for his sunburn. He finds it. Back down the stairs. There goes the garage door…obviously searching for food and drink in the outside fridge now. Guess what conversation starts again?
What is the rule going to be? Do I tell my 16 and 14 year olds that they have to be in bed by a certain time? Does this mean lights out? Do I need to clarify the use of cell phones and computers? What if they have studying to do? Can they stay up and read for pleasure? Exactly what boundaries are we going to put around “bedtime” for teenagers? My husband and I revisit the issue again. We decide that we will set a timer that the wireless connection to their devices will be shut off and that we will require them to be in their rooms at a certain time with the inability to have access socially.
Now there is another situation that has to be addressed here that these rules do not necessarily diffuse. I know that some may feel this may be an inappropriate forum to discuss this but we parents need to stick together. Besides- my husband and I have googled this situation and there just isn't much written about it - yet we know it goes on in every household that has teenagers and it really is a problem. Now if you just have one or two children this may not be a problem for as great a length of time. But I have four children. My youngest is 10. My husband and I have been enduring this scenario for 2 years now and realize that we have another 8 ahead of us. That's an entire decade and it is definitely getting more difficult the older they get!
Remember the days when you planned nights that the children would go to bed early because of “marital relationship” reasons. It’s not really like that anymore. Well at least not in my home. It is difficult to say the least to think about spending that “quality” time with your spouse when you have constant activity in the house. I miss the days when the kids were all in bed asleep and you didn’t have to plan some sort of stealth mission in order to have a romantic evening. They were asleep and unless someone was sick – you had the next 8 hours to yourselves. Welp, this is no longer the case with teens in the house. They are always awake later than you. Even if banished to their rooms – let’s be honest here – they are going to be up and aware of what is going on. There is no such thing as "private" time.
So it goes like this. You are in the midst of “alone” time. Teenager #2 down the hallway is listening to his music, strumming his guitar or even practicing on his keyboard. Hard to ignore that he is there. Teenager #1 is in the basement. We hear the footsteps. Cupboards opening. Suddenly the roar of the icemaker – guess he is thirsty. We freeze like deer in headlights while we wait to see where he is headed next. We begin to whisper to each other. “What do you think?” “Should we close the door?”
Now this is where things get sticky. Do we close the door? Let’s see. Close the door and the teenagers in the house know FOR SURE what is going on at that moment, don’t they? Leaves you with a strange feeling. Not just that, but you know you have to lock it too. Wow. Do we want them to know what is going on and exactly when it is going on? It would be nice to have some privacy left to our lives. But clearly we can’t leave the door open because they come and go as they please. Let’s not forget that just last night my 16 year old waltzed right into my room and into my bathroom without knocking or saying anything prior to entry. He just assumed we were sleeping. We could just start closing our door and locking it every night so that closing the door has nothing to do with what may be going on behind it. Except I do still have a 10 year old that I need to hear and I do have a 12 year old that sleepwalks and he has been known to walk all over the house during the night. As parents, we’d like to be aware. But in all honesty, if we started closing our bedroom door every night now after 16 years of it being opened every night – it could prompt some questions, huh? So our dilemma continues.
For all of the weepy moments I have when I consider the days of them being gone – I need to remember those nights that are constantly interrupted or even ended with their intrusive presence. Perhaps this is part of the design, you know, preparing us for their being gone one day. I was reminded of a silly banter that used to go back and forth between my mother and myself. When I would spend the night away I would say to my mother, “You missed me didn’t you?” She always replied, “It was a nice miss.” I think I may finally understand what she could have meant. So here is my advice to parents of young children – start sleeping with your door closed and even locked now. When they are teenagers you’ll thank me.
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