Staying in touch with teens is important to every parent I know…but how do you do it when you are NOT a night owl? Here’s my strategy and a few tips.
By Ann Timm
A morning sunrise is far more appealing to me than late nights watching TV, talking on the phone, or reading a book.
I miss the old days of tucking the kids into bed at night by 9 p.m. and then starting my bedtime routine and being asleep by 10. I would wake up so refreshed and ready for a new day.
Those were the days of bright and cheery good morning kisses from cute little monsters with bed head.
Somehow, over the years, those cute little morning kissing monsters morphed into night owls. No more bright sunshiny mornings; instead they prefer to stay up late and sleep in way past the sunrise. I have struggled to follow them there…by turning into the nighttime monster that snaps and growls while trying to keep my eyes open, just wanting my pillow and all the chatter to stop.
For a while I tried to leave it to my husband to be the night watch. He is more of a night owl and has superhuman powers that don’t require much sleep, unlike me, who needs a full 8 hours to rise bright and cheery with the morning sun. He did great for a while, but now that even our youngest girls are staying up later, I find myself battling my bleary eyes more and more.
I used to tell them, when they would ask if we could talk late at night, that it could wait until morning. After a number of times of trying to re-start the conversation when I was fresh, the moment had passed and they no longer had anything to say.
My selfish desire to be fresh so that I could impart some great wisdom was replaced with a sadness fueled by their feelings of doubt that I really cared about them. I heard, “Mom you never listen!” too many times. I struggled in my prayer with God to understand WHY couldn’t we have these talks during daylight hours…shouldn’t it be at a time when I was fresh and able to really listen and respond brilliantly? My brain is so foggy at night and I just didn’t think I would have the ability to give the responses I thought they needed.
Finally, after too many nights of sending my girls to bed disappointed and feeling like Mom didn’t care, I slowly started to respond by snuggling in and asking what is was they wanted to talk about. Funny thing was, they weren’t really looking for any wisdom or even advice. Most of the time, they don’t require any more than a nod of the head and an ‘mmm-hmm.’ They just wanted and needed Mom to listen and be present.
Now that I’ve been at it a while, it always amazes me how open and raw my teens (and pre-teen) are late at night. Somehow the darkness tenderizes them, opening a window to their hearts that during the day is closed and guarded. We get a glimpse of their struggles and dreams. Our times together at night, though taken a while for me to get used to, have turned into moments of shared giggles and touching moments of heart to hearts.
More and more, I find myself sharing songs or quotes or scripture to help them with fears or girl drama or feelings of inadequacy. Mostly, though, its just the time together and instead of “Mom, you never listen,” I’m hearing a heartfelt, “Thanks Mom.”
If you’re a morning mama and you struggle like I do, I encourage you to let go of the bondage of time and tiredness. Let yourself be tenderized, tired and bleary, just listen. You might be amazed at how much it opens their heart just to know you care even when you think you can’t.
Twenty minutes at night when my eyes are half closed, my ears are fully open. And our hearts are fully shared.