Stress puppies in springtime

cry-62326_1920I told you about my chill child last week, and he is pretty chill most of the time. Except when he’s not. Like those days I pick him up from school and he’s got a scowl on his face and the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey sweetheart, how was your da – “

“WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO ASK SO MANY QUESTIONS?”

I swear there was some planet in retrograde for our entire household last week. The same morning started off with the other child slamming doors and books and throwing shoes around on his way downstairs.

“Mom, will you please, just —WHY ARE WE ALWAYS LATE?”

I happened to be waiting, keys in hand, to drive him to school. So I had no answer. At least not one that wasn’t going to get me yelled at.

It has been a stressful couple of months. Mostly it’s because we’re swimming in a sea of first-world problems with which I won’t bore you. But there has been enough going on to require I bite my tongue on a regular basis whenever someone needs one more bloody thing from me.

Like when some company contacted me, as often happens, to promote their NEW BIG THING (for free, which I should be falling all over myself to do because of the copious compliments they paid to my blog, followed by opinions on the similarities of our respective audiences) with a post in commemoration of National Stress Awareness Month. I, sadly, was too stressed to figure out how to respond in a way that incorporated the appropriate amount of sardonicism and wit to fit the situation.

It would have been something along the lines of “pshaw, as if stress NEEDS an awareness month, lady. We all already know all about it.”

(Really there’s a whole lot less pshaw than there should be outside of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel. I’m thinking of starting a campaign to bring it back).

Anyway, my recent melt downs when anyone asks anything of me have enveloped my kids more than a few times these past weeks. Those people. So in need of things like rides and someone to pay into the school cafeteria account once in a while so the secretary doesn’t have to loan my son a buck for lunch again. Gah.

I’ll admit I’m not one to manage stress well. Remember, that thing about my starting a meditation routine? So far that’s included downloading an app that regularly reminds me I’m about the worst meditator on the planet. My exercise routine has been neglected too. And then there’s the fact that nobody around here is getting to bed early enough, ever. All this ends up being a recipe for scowly-faces and morning shoe throwing.

Our oldest son, who is going on exchange and supposed to be studying Danish every day, also recently completed his lifeguard certification and got a job at our local Y, which is woefully understaffed and has gladly taken him up on his offer to put in as many hours as they’ll throw his way. This has cut in pretty significantly to his sofa time, which will take its toll on a boy.

But he’s got big dreams and an empty bank account and those things don’t tend to go together, so he’s sacrificing in other areas to make time for work.

Those other areas of sacrifice include sleep time, I suspect. Heaven forbid he cut his Netflix habit.

Do other people set bed times for teenagers? We don’t. I always remember putting myself to bed at a reasonable time, and once the kids got beyond a certain age, we’ve expected them to do the same.

Recently though, I was talking with another mom who mentioned something about a strict “lights out time” of 10 pm. For her teenagers.

Which makes me wonder if I’m doing this all wrong.

I’m kidding. It doesn’t. Our policy around here has been “go to bed whenever, but don’t bug your dad and me after 8:30 pm.”

Of course, we also talk to our kids about the benefits of sleep: about how the brain needs to recharge, how sleep deprivation accumulates, and about the impacts of screen time before bed.

This is an area a kid can learn to self-regulate early on. There are built-in reinforcement mechanisms. You skimp on sleep, you get a zero when you conk out in first period. Consequences. Boom.

There are a bazillion other lessons of the teen years that aren’t so easy. I can’t just say, for example: “Heroin is really bad. Don’t believe me? Go out and try some and you’ll see what I mean.” That would be bad parenting.

So, that one morning, after Jack calmed down enough to interact with humans again, we talked about his schedule, about how pressed he is for time and how much stress he’s feeling. Stress is going to be an ever increasing part of his life as he moves further and further into adulthood and away from the time when someone’s around to make sure he has three squares a day and clean laundry. He needs to manage it.

I’m one to talk, right?

I told him about my struggles with time management, with staying on a workout routine, and away from crappy food. We talked about how to say “no” – even if the opportunity is a good one – and “yes” when it’s appropriate, even when you’d rather scream do you know how freaking busy I am? We talked about stopping to breathe deeply once in a while, about getting up to stretch and making sure to smile. We talked about going to bed at a reasonable time. Which I did that night. I’m not sure about him.

I do know that the next morning was a very different one. No door slamming, no yelling. A little victory. And here we are at the tail end of National Stress Awareness Month, so it’s apparently just in time.

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One thought on “Stress puppies in springtime

  1. I always love your posts! I’m not very good at stress management either! I downloaded a meditation app and I suck at it. Ha ha!
    I have struggled with bedtime with our teenagers too! I love your “go to bed whenever, but don’t bug mom and dad after 8:30” thing. I need to try that!!! I have an ADD child who never seems to want to go to sleep though, so I’d have to see how that goes. So fun. Ha ha.
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