By: Jill Pertler
The Journal Express
---- — Babies know nothing of regular schedules. They wake at any hour of the night or very early morning and demand to be fed. This is to be expected. They are growing and in need of nourishment – day and night.Babies don’t stay babies forever. They grow and change and turn into (ahem) teenagers.Teenagers know nothing of regular schedules. They wake late in the daytime, stay up into the wee hours and demand frozen pizza and ice cream. This is to be expected. Teenagers are growing and in need of nourishment – day and night.When my son was an infant, there was a period of time when he got his days and nights mixed up. Now, 18 years later, I fear the situation is repeating itself. As his mom, I am experiencing a déjà vu of sleep deprivation.In other words, I’m tired all over again.This does not bode well with me because I sort of like sleeping and have a definite attachment to my zzz’s. If I encounter an unencumbered afternoon, I often choose to nap. My dedication to slumber runs deep.Unfortunately, my dedication to my kids runs deeper. Maybe that didn’t come out right. I’ll blame the sleep deprivation. Fortunately, my dedication to my kids runs deeper. Yeah, that’s better.One might question how and why having teenagers who keep upside down sleep schedules impacts a mother’s ability to sleep through the night. Believe me – it does; and I bet I’ve got a gazillion other moms and dads out there who understand what I’m talking about. We may be sleeping, but we’re doing it with one eye open, and that does not result in healthful rapid eye movement or restful slumber.Oh, sure, teenagers do not request or require the hands-on parental attentiveness essential during the baby years. I no longer need to get out of bed to fetch the pacifier from the floor or heat a bottle of formula in the microwave. Most teens have long ago exchanged pacifiers for mouth guards and are perfectly capable of operating the microwave on their own. Microwave proficiency is key to a teen’s existence because instead of sleeping in the middle of the night, teens prefer to eat. I’m convinced my kids don’t go to bed just so they can get a few more meals in before morning.The teens living in my house display an exceptional aptitude for preparing any and all kinds of microwave meals – especially after midnight. They are able to dispose of a box of ice cream in NASCAR fashion and can estimate the exact cost of any one of a number of items on the dollar menu without using a calculator.They are skilled. They are nearly adults. Yet, they follow the sleep schedule of an infant and it is driving me crazy. Well, not crazy, per se. I am merely sleep deprived. Slap happy. Giddy when I shouldn’t be. Weepy because of stimuli like toilet paper commercials. Walking in a fog because 2:00 a.m. is like the beginning of the evening for them. I am getting too old for this. For goodness sakes, can’t they see that?Of course not. Teens are skilled in many areas, but empathy will come later for most – like when they become parents themselves.Perhaps they’ll be quicker to grasp the knowledge I’m finally beginning to comprehend: when you have a baby, you are no longer in control; when you have a teenager, you are no longer in control. I guess this is the very issue I’ve been trying for decades to ignore, but the one I most needed to learn.That thought is as deep as a healthful slumber. At least I think it is. I’m not sure right now. Can’t think straight due to the lack of sleep and all. Plus my teens are due to be home from their bonfire soon. Gotta be awake and alive for that.Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.