It is with growing sadness that I realize the summer is coming to an end. Not because I like the summer — because I really am not a fan of sweating simply because I’m breathing — but because it means that sooner rather than later, my kids will be going back to school. While I know many parents look forward to this oft-magical time of year, they are clearly people who do not have teenagers.
My oldest has spent the summer morphing into a creature of the night. There were times when I woke in the wee hours to let a dog outside (because how could I possibly expect all three of them to sleep through any given night?) and found a headphone-clad child, standing in the semi-dark, doing the dishes that I insisted he take care of before going to bed. There were also mornings when I’ve woken up at 4 a.m. to prepare my husband’s breakfast, only to find the still-warm plate that the child had minutes before lay in the sink, coated with the grease of microwaved, left-over pizza. And there may have even been one time when I quietly snuck out of my room with my trusty Louisville Slugger, after hearing an unusual noise (which my multiple canines felt comfortable ignoring), only to find him rustling through the cabinet in search of night creature snacks.
But school is coming at us like one of those creepy, over-sized, characters dressed in fleece costumes in Times Square. (Can you imagine what that must smell like in the summer? In NYC?) and when first period starts at 7:16 a.m., one cannot have a 4:16 a.m. bedtime. So this week, I gingerly approached my eldest about this issue. I suggested that perhaps he begin decreasing his nighttime activities, in one-hour increments, for approximately three days at a time, thereby gradually reducing his upside down sleeping habits until he was getting to sleep in the same day that he woke up.
You would think that he was a meth addict and I had just told him to try hugs instead of drugs. His expression conveyed a mixture of disbelief, horror, and ridicule. I don’t even think he responded. There may have been a grunt, neither in agreement nor in disagreement, but otherwise, I was summarily dismissed.
I now understand how much my parents must have wanted to throat-punch me. Why do teenagers think their parents were always middle aged? Why would there be no consideration, at all, for the fact that we, too, were once nocturnal dwellers and are only trying to help them avoid the horrors that we had to endure when September rolled around? I still remember my sister putting her alarm clock across the room from her bed (against the wall we shared where my bed happened to be) and then not ever getting out of bed to turn it off, forcing me to leave the warmth of my bed and storm into her room to beat the bejeezus out of the clock. I now understand that this was her way of making me get up first and that, clearly, she was far wiser than me, but back then, I just wanted to cry.
There is no pain like the pain of waking a nearly comatose teenager when it’s still dark out. It’s one thing if you’re taking them to like, Disney World or something. But it’s an entirely different issue when they know that seven hours of hard plastic chairs, high expectations, bad smells, and other exhausted and grumpy teenagers are waiting on the other side. I actually feel guilty when I pull off the blanket and let the puppy lick him in the ear. Just kidding. I don’t feel guilty. But I don’t really have the time to be the drill sergeant. I’ve got my own morning routine — my own early work schedule — awaiting me. I need these nearly-adult people to get themselves conscious and moving. Then I provide the snacks.
Back-to-school mornings also seem to be the time that my child practices his future career in law. There are intense negotiations, impassioned arguments, and devious tactics that make me question my own resolve. I mean, does he really need gym? With the rate he breaks bones, he could probably stand to miss a class or two. Actually, I think he used that one on me at some point. He knows exactly when to look me in the eyes and put on the sad face. It’s like living with teen-angst-Medusa.
That’s just the mornings. I’m not yet ready to think about the homework that’s like a black cloud of cosines and Latin roots shadowing my entire world. And sweet, sweet Jesus, this year is the start of the SAT saga. His more-than-acceptable PSAT score gave him the confidence to decide that test prep classes are out of the question. Pray for us. For real. College is expensive and momma needs these kids to get some freaking scholarships.
On top of all the joy and merriment awaiting me come September, I have a non-breakfast eater. For God’s sake, I am a mom. With an eating disorder. The first time he refused breakfast I developed a facial twitch. Then I spent 23 minutes trying desperately not to turn into a harpy, while circling him with plates of toast and fried meat. It was harrowing for all of us. We’ve settled on an electrolyte-laden beverage and seven pounds of snacks in his lunch. OK, I’ve settled on it. He has definitely not settled. Sometimes, he brings home half the food, just to spite me. Because I can’t believe it’s possible that the child is just not hungry (remember — eating disorder here), even though he insists that’s the case.
For now, I’m clinging onto every last second of summer, whilst following my kid around with a clipboard of scheduled summer homework that I’ve assigned varying due dates. Because why not start early? This is why I drink.
I can’t tell you how many different breakfast foods I have offered to try to entice my child to eat something — anything — before school, from energy bars to freaking maple syrup dipped bacon, only to be rebuked. I’ve got two more years to experiment. I think I’ll start the year off with this beauty of a smoothie recipe from easyhealthysmoothie.com. Maybe I can trick him into thinking it’s just chunky water.
1 fresh mango, peeled
1 cup milk (or soy, almond, cashew, coconut)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blend everything together until smooth.
Add in ice cubes to make it creamier and colder.