Friday, May 15, 2015

The Upside of Downtime

My teenage daughter has managed to keep her grades high through the past three years — between concerts and cookie dough, riding, competing, Gossip Girl and texting, texting, texting, I don't know how she does it.

Ask any high school parent these days and I'm sure you'll hear the same thing. Kids today have more homework than we did. Way more. Way way more.

They're also expected to excel at a sport (or in many cases multiple sports). Whether you're in the volleyball club or a varsity team, this equates to a huge time sink. Some of my daughter's classmates who participate in school athletics have practice every day after school and meets or games every Saturday and Sunday.

My daughter didn't join any school teams because she already spends an average of 30-35 hours a week at the stable. (It killed us when a well-meaning gym teacher once told her that riding isn't a sport. Excuse me, Mr. Man, but why don't you try posting up and down in a saddle for an hour or carrying 50-pound water buckets. Sheesh!)

Kids are also expected to "serve," to give back to the community. I'm not a mathematician (thank goodness my daughter hasn't needed my help with pre-calculus this year), but if you add up the hours they're in class, plus the hours they're doing homework, plus the hours they're running around with a hockey stick ... well, I don't think there are any hours left.

Experts advise that teens need 9-10 hours of sleep (as adults, we need only 7-8). My response to this?


Even if homework is done by 10 or even 11 o'clock, my daughter needs at least a little while to connect with her friends or unwind with a half-hour of New Girl. Her father and I try to explain that she should go right to bed, but I can't blame her for wanting a bit of time for herself.

Most afternoons, I'm able to pick my daughter up after school. "How was your day?" I'll ask. More often than not, she doesn't want to talk about it. She thinks it's all "so annoying."

I think it's just that she's "so" exhausted.

Supposedly, all this extra work and activity and stress is supposed to be preparing our kids for college. Supposedly, they'll know how to study; supposedly, they'll know how to manage their time.  

Here's what I suppose ...

We're pretty much burning our teens out before they even start college. When they're alone in their dorms and suddenly have the option to goof off, when there aren't any moms or dads nagging them about their work, I worry that they're going to simply check out for some much needed downtime.

Doing nothing, relaxing, reading for enjoyment rather than for an AP test. My daughter and her friends don't get enough discretionary time. "It's just one more year," everyone mutters under their breath. But it's not. It's — hopefully — five more years. At least.

We've got to give these kids a break — or they're going to break.

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