Summer Schedule

As I write this, it’s almost 10:00 a.m.  Elsewhere in my house are three sleeping children, none of whom went to bed before midnight, and none of whom will make an appearance before noon.

I have the privilege of being home all summer, and this stay-up-late-sleep-forever schedule can drive me nuts.  Especially if I want to go out and do something fun.  If I worked during the summer and knew my kids were home sleeping half the day away, it would still drive me nuts.  Shouldn’t they get up and do something productive?

When I confronted my children with this question a few years ago, they came back with a question of their own:  “Why?”  I sputtered a little over a reasonable answer, and the questioning continued:  “Why should we get up unless we have to go to work?  What difference does it make if we sleep past noon?”

The best answer I could think of was, “Because by the time you get up it’s too late to do anything fun!”  To which I received the perfectly logical reply, “Just tell us the night before if you want to go somewhere, and we’ll be sure to get up.”  I couldn’t come up with a good argument to that.

When they were younger (middle school age), I did have a rule that in order to play any video or computer games, they had to be out of bed by 10:00 (they managed to stretch this to 10:30).  This plan was only partly successful:  yes, they would get up, but then they’d sit groggily on the couch, staring at whatever was on TV (seems like we watched a lot of “How It’s Made” during those summers).

I finally agreed that as long as their chores were done whenever they got up, I would leave them alone unless there was a good reason for them to be out of bed.

Besides, once my husband leaves for work, I have the whole (quiet) house to myself!

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Humor. Always Humor.

Issues with teens are international and cross-cultural, as my experience last week with a young man I’ll call “Eric” demonstrates:

When it was time to pass out juice and a snack at VBS, one of my adult co-leaders came to me and announced in frustration, “We aren’t having snack today.”  When I asked why, she replied, “Eric took the box of crackers and won’t give it back.”  When I asked where he was, she directed me outside.

I’d spoken with Eric earlier in the week, asking him to take his soccer ball outside.  We were holding VBS in the gym in a small village in Northern British Columbia, and some of the kids had been kicking soccer balls around in the half of the gym that we weren’t using.  This added quite a bit of noise to an already noisy situation (70+ kids in a gym), especially when they bounced them off the wall (BLAM!).  My team and I had agreed we’d ask the kids to keep the balls outside.

When I’d approached Eric I’d first had to wait for him to remove his earphones.  I then asked him if he could please juggle the ball outside.  He said, “Dude!  I was just about to break a record, and now you messed me up!”  I chose to assume he was kidding, patted him on the shoulder, said, “Sorry, Dude,” and walked away.  A few seconds later he and his ball were juggling out in the parking lot.

I decided to assume he was kidding again as I headed out the door to retrieve the snack.  “Hey, Eric,” I said, “are you going to eat all those crackers, or were you wanting to help hand them out?”  He grinned and said, “I’ll hand them out!”  We checked out how many crackers there were and found cups to put them in, and he got busy counting crackers.

Eric is about 19 years old, tall and a little edgy – a “loose cannon” is how one person described him.  Yet by approaching him with humor and giving him a chance to save face while assuming a position of some importance, I was able to maintain a good relationship with him.

So good, in fact, that he and his brother hung out with us back at camp for many hours at a time.  Such is the power of a sense of humor.

Road Trip!

I am between trips at the moment, having just returned from a whirlwind 6-day trip to and from Southern California with my two oldest, and preparing to leave on a 10-day mission trip (2 days’ driving each way) to British Columbia with vanloads of high schoolers.

My boys have been road trippers since their car seat days, so we learned many tricks to keep them entertained.  Unfortunately, everything changed when they hit middle school.  They were never reluctant to go, but the dynamics in the car were altered due to the addition of a passenger called ADOLESCENCE.   Dealing with their unpredictable moods was tricky enough at home, but in the small space of a passenger van it could become a real challenge.

If you’re traveling with teens, the two most important things you can buy are car charger adapters for their electronics, and an inverter, which is a box with regular outlets which plugs into your car’s lighter.

Then don’t worry too much if all they do in the car is listen to music, text, watch videos, and play video games.  We made a simple rule:  when Mom called out, “Scenery!” everyone was expected to look up and make appropriate oohing and aahing noises.  Because our youngest could play his GameBoy for hours, we did designate half-hour breaks, giving him fair warning that they were coming up:  “Ten more minutes. . .five more minutes. . .shutdown time!”   He often went to sleep when forced to turn off the game.

Stops for gas were also stops for snacks.  Dad would hand over the credit card, and Mom and boys would traipse inside the store, where each boy could pick one drink (in a recloseable bottle, preferably) and one snack.  Nothing keeps teens happy like food and sugar!

And when they DID get moody, I employed the usual trick of pretending not to notice.  Unless they began sniping at each other, and then I’d step in and try to impose a Cone of Silence.  They always staked out their favorite spots in the van, but sometimes I’d trade with someone and let him sit up front for awhile.  A change of scenery can do wonders, and the view from the back seats gets pretty monotonous.

Getting everybody to agree on a fast food place wasn’t always easy.  If someone was unhappy about the choice and decided to sulk, we’d just let him.  Everyone knows you can’t cheer up a sulky teen (you DO know that, right?).  He could eat or not eat – no skin off our backs (and we’d save money if he grumpily ordered just a milkshake!).

When I head out this weekend with 50+ teenagers, I will provide Activity Baskets for each van.  In each basket (dishtub, actually) the teens will find coloring books and crayons, crossword puzzle and sudoku books, pens and pencils, decks of cards, and a small handheld game (Yahtzee, Solitaire, etc.).  At first they will ignore the baskets, but as the second day of 10 hours of driving begins, they will be thankful for the new diversions.

On this last trip with my two oldest, now 20 and 22, they slept, helped drive, texted, took charge of the music, and read – one  Hamlet and the other Prince Caspian. How cool is that?