My teenagers have me tongue-tied, tossing and turning

My 14-year-old son had a day off from school. It was rainy and cold outside, and I figured he’d want to sleep in, so I refrained from calling him from my office until late morning, around 11.

He answered the phone in his new weird low man voice that I was still getting used to. It took me months to realize that he didn’t have laryngitis or some other vocal cord issue; it was just that his voice was changing.

Me: “What are you doing?”

Him, muttering drowsily: “Just got up. May go back to bed.”

Me: “Uh, why don’t you jump in the shower and then make yourself something to eat?”

Him: “Well, you’re not here, so you can’t make me do that.”

Me: Silence.

I was warned this would happen when my kids turned into teenagers. But, like anything else in life, I failed to pay much attention to it because it didn’t directly affect me at the moment. Now, I can hear sharply the ominous words of a friend of mine from years ago. Her children were teenagers when mine were babies. There was no other stage of parenthood, she bemoaned, that befuddled her more than the teenage years.

This made no sense to me. Here was a smart successful woman who ran her own company and seemed in complete control of her life admitting that she was helpless in the face of her teenaged children.

Now, I get it.

Sure, being a parent to an infant or toddler was no picnic. But, more than anything else, it felt to me like a physical challenge—not a mental battle. When my kids were young, I would collapse at the end of the day from sheer exhaustion, having carried them around on a hip, hoisted them on my back, walked them up and down hills in a stroller, or some combination of the above. But I don’t recall ever falling asleep wondering whether or not I’d made the right decision as a parent, or reacted appropriately to a situation involving one of my children. Now, those kinds of uncertainties keep me tossing and turning at night. But I suppose it could be worse. The current angst-induced tossing and turning could be replaced by, or added to, the wee early morning hour wakings that used to plague me.

That feels like another lifetime ago. And in the lifespan of parenthood, I suppose it was.

Way back when, my sweet little baby boy would hit the floor running, hard, around 5am. He’d open his bedroom door with a bang, like Superman, and come padding into the bedroom his father and I share, ready to start the day.

Jolted out of a deep sleep, we would attempt to coax our then-toddler to go back to bed. Usually, he’d just flop around in our bed for a few minutes before poking at us to get up. With his long lashes, button nose and wide grin, it was near impossible to get upset at the little guy (probably one of my first big parenting mistakes). Besides, he couldn’t help it if his internal clock was raring to go at the crack of dawn.

Maybe the same remains true of his internal clock, only it’s flipped.

Stay tuned for more on teenagers’ strange sleeping–and other–habits. 

me

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