Friday, 10 October 2014

Let sleeping teens lie.

Could we be part of this study in which 33,000 teenagers are allowed a lie-in, please? Apparently, thousands of 14 - 16 year-olds are to be given the chance of a lie-in and later start to the school day to access the impact on their educational achievement.*

I’ve long thought that we drag children out of bed too early for school in this country, probably in all countries. We’re not all early birds. While small children routinely wake at the crack of dawn (in my experience) things change entirely the minute they hit puberty (in my experience), when suddenly you can no longer get them out of bed for love nor money, or even for a free go on Minecraft. Now I know this is because a teenager's circadian rhythm typically begins two hours after an adult's, which means we are waking them too early. 

I must suffer from arrested development then - a teenager in woman's body - not a morning person at all, never have been. No one on my side of the family is. My brother can sleep for Britain. My parents must be the only OAPs not to know what dawn looks like. 

When I was a teenager I got myself up early on a Saturday morning and a friend’s dad drove my friend and me to our 9.00 am pottery class at the local Art College (stop sniggering at the back, I was good at pottery), where I bought a Mars or a Marathon bar at the tuck shop for breakfast at break time (friend and I ran the tuck shop especially for this purpose), as my parents slept on in bed at home.

For modern parents, Husband and I included, weekends are just another morning when we must get up and run around making children breakfast and looking for items of clean sports kit. However many times I tell the boys not to ask me where things are before 9.00 am, they still do it and I find myself head first in a manky laundry bin looking for a crumpled P.E. top most weekday mornings, and quite a few weekend ones too. “Sort it all out the night before!” I yell at them. That’s what I did when I was a teenager. I had all my things laid out on the chair ready. I would PLAN what I was going to wear. I would PACK my bag in advance. I would even make my OWN packed-lunch the night BEFORE. All from the age of 11.

The boys stare at me blankly. These are very different times, molly-coddle-them-to-death-children-come-first-they-are-the-centre-of-our-universe times. It’s less a matter of children fitting in around the adults, as we did when I was young, and more a matter of are the little darlings okay? Have they got enough to eat? Are they warm enough? Do they need a lift? A jumper? A clean shirt? A new electric guitar because the old one isn’t good enough? They MUST have it all. NOW.

New electric guitar because the old one wasn't good enough.

Husband didn’t have this sort of childhood: he went to boarding school. Consequently he still rises at the break of day, every single day, thankful that he doesn’t have a layer of ice on his bedsheets and a prefect with a redhot poker standing over him. He's very alert in the morning. Preternaturally alert. He TALKS to me. I can’t tell you the number of times he's asked me questions about the day ahead as I stand in the shower lathering up my hair. I need to have the words DON’T SPEAK TO ME BEFORE NINE AM tattooed somewhere on my body to remind him. Full frontal.

Anyway, I don’t begrudge the boys all the mollycoddling, not really. I like spoiling them. I told them that the other day when we were all in the living room watching The Great British Bake Off together: “You boys are the best thing in my life,” I said, before realising I might be offending Husband and turning to add that I was including him in this. But there was no need to worry. He was fast asleep with his mouth open. He wakes up too early.

Love E x


*Research from The Guardian 09.09.14 - £700,000 project involving 106 schools and 32,000 teenagers lead by Dr Paul Kelley at Oxford University's Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation.

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