Saturday, September 6, 2014

Minefields in the Morning

Virtually every morning, I negotiate a minefield. 

If only Princess Diana were here in a clear plastic visor, crisp white shirt and chinos to bring attention to the matter. Joking aside, I'm not trying to diminish the late great Lady Di's important cause. She was brave and beautiful and brought much-needed heart to the British royal family. I was a big fan then (eight and a half months pregnant when she died, I collapsed on the sofa in tears at the news). I'm still a big fan. Sometimes, I stop and wonder what she might have accomplished if she had lived a full life. 

Of course, I can't compare my efforts to hers. But, really, I do tread treacherous territory in my own home each day. And the sometimes ally — but often enemy — I face is my own teen daughter.

On the one hand, I'm yelled at if I enter the room before her alarm. On the other hand, I'm yelled at if I come in between alarms one and two. And on the third hand (because, two hands would never be enough; mothers are like the Hindu goddess Durga) I'm yelled at if she sleeps through both alarms and I didn't somehow realize it and come wake her.

'Can't win.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'll indulge in a quick paragraph of nostalgia. (Cue Disney music: happy birds singing in the background.) Mornings used to be nice. They used to be special. They used to be precious time together before my sweet little girl went off to preschool or kindergarten or even third grade, and I went off to my office in Boston. She was happy to see me. We snuggled. We talked. We ate together.

Cut! (Cue abrupt scratched record sound effect.)

It's been a while.

These days, assuming that one of her alarms has raised her, my daughter has a whole world of things to do before she leaves for school — things that by-and-large do not include yours truly. First, she has to actually wake up, which is not the same thing as getting up. Often, this entails, sitting on the carpet, staring blankly in the general direction of her dresser. Somehow this helps. I guess.

She's almost seventeen, so she has to check all of her electronica. She has to put great effort into dressing in a way that looks effortless. She half-heartedly makes the bed.

Either my  husband or I bang on the wall of the staircase that leads up to her room. The bang translates, simultaneously, into "breakfast is ready" and "Daddy's leaving." Although he often threatens to, he has never actually left without her. If the stars align (and somehow they always do), she grabs the fruit and muffin off the kitchen counter as she grunts "Bye" and makes it out the door just in time.

Sometimes, I blame myself ("Where did I go wrong?). Sometimes, I blame her ("What happened to my sweet little daughter?"). But, really, it's all about biology. Teens need sleep. Teen biorhythms are such that going to bed late and sleeping in are natural. It isn't poor parenting or teen 'tude; it's science.

Earlier this week (coinciding with the start of the school year in many states), the American Academy of Pediatrics released a recommendation that high schools (and middle schools) delay starting until 8:30 a.m. or later ... 

Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty. 

My daughter and many others start their school day almost an hour earlier. That explains it! So this begs the question: if she was able to sleep in an extra hour, would her room still feel like a minefield?

Yes, I'm sure it would. But maybe after an extra hour of sleep (or coffee), I might be a bit more sure-footed myself.

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