“I have to run into work for a sec. You want to ride along?”
“Nah, I’m about to eat lunch.”
Today’s latest evidence—my kids are becoming vampires.
Me, channeling my mother: “Get out of bed, the day’s half over!”
I don’t have an answer. Why go to bed early? Why not sleep until noon? Why not eat lunch at three? Who cares? There’s nowhere they need to be. We’ve made few requests. Keep up with school work. Get regular exercise. Do the chores we assign.
Early on in the pandemic, Sophie vowed to use her extra time to learn to play Eli’s guitar. She hasn’t done that. But she plays her flute and saxophone. She draws. She runs and rides her bike. She bakes for the family.
She stays up until 2:30 every night.
Things are less clear-cut with Eli. He doesn’t have as much schoolwork as Sophie, and his hobby is gaming. The lockdown works well for him. More time to play the same games with the same friends as before the crisis. Only now they do it later.
At least he’s riding a lot. “Dad, we should go mountain biking.”
“It’s pouring out. It’s been raining all day.”
When I was in college, on my summer breaks I worked at a pizza place. My shift started at five each evening and the restaurant closed at midnight. I typically punched out around one o’clock and then drank beer with my manager and the other closers past two. Or we hung out in the back parking lot with beers until 3:00. Or both. Regardless, I rarely came home before 2:30 or 3:00 AM. On weekends, my parents were home during the day; that’s when I heard that day’s half over line from my mom.
I’ve read that teenagers are wired to stay up late. And sleep late. It’s so pervasive that our school district actually surveyed families a couple of years ago to try to determine if school should start an hour later. Well, it doesn’t matter anymore, because now there’s no school.
Summer jobs seem unlikely this year. Even if they can find jobs that adults aren’t begging for, I can’t see allowing my kids to work retail. I honestly don’t want them coming in contact with that many people. But their lack of schedule concerns me. When (if) school starts up in the fall, the break from school will be pushing six months. Imagine how hard-wired their habits will be. My vampire schedule, learned from years working in a restaurant, lasted well into my adulthood. As a thirty-year-old, even on work nights, I usually stayed up until one o’clock. I caught up on sleep on Saturday and Sunday morning.
I heard a presentation recently by a psychiatrist asserting that I should force my kids into a daily schedule resembling a school day. He warned that a lax, late night schedule would lead to depression, agitation and aggression. I’m not buying it. As a family, I don’t think we’ve ever been this close. We joke easily, hike together, work on jigsaw puzzles, we even watch TV as a family. No one seems depressed, and no one’s angry or aggressive. Honestly, no one seems to miss our normal life.
As the weather warms up, I’m hoping Sophie and Eli spend more time outside. They have access to a car, and we have phenomenal hiking and mountain biking trails surrounding us. We have lakes to kayak and ponds to fish. I know they’re already growing bored with TV and gaming. As I was running into work today (a library) to pick up my forgotten phone, they asked me to grab them some books to read.
In many ways, a six month break from life is an unbelievable luxury for a couple of teens. Plenty of time to tryout a phase, get bored and move onto the next activity. Lots of time to figure out who you want to be.
So, is this part of that new normal? Asking for library books? I hope so.
Previously Published on jeffcann.com