For the most part, we parents love summer — no homework, no making lunches, no schedules timed in 15-minute intervals. But on the other hand, summer vacation produces phrases that totally trigger our nerves.
For parents with younger children, it’s the three simple words: “I’m so bored,” which then is quickly followed by, “There is nothing to do! Can I at least have my iPad?” And, I don’t think I need to explain how the conversation disintegrates from there.
Yes, I’ve been there. And for that reason, from the time my daughter was in first grade, I had camps and vacations lined up with no more than a week break so that I could avoid the iPad and video game struggles.
While my daughter is now 13 and can remedy her summer boredom with a half-day camp, a couple of dance classes interspersed with a few friend outings, that doesn’t mean triggering summer phrases are a thing of the past.
“Taryn, Can you take your dishes to the sink?”
“Ugh… I’m too lazy.”
“Can you get your day started? It’s 11 a.m.”
“Do I have to? I’m too lazy. I think I’m going to go back to bed.”
“Did you ask any of your friends if they want to go biking this weekend?”
“Not yet, I’m too lazy. Oh, can you get me a bottle of water?”
While I appreciate my daughter’s honesty for her lethargy, it’s nonetheless infuriating and worrisome that my once vibrant daughter is turning into a sloth. But as I found out through a little research, there are actually scientific reasons behind her all-day pajama and bed-head look:
Circadian rhythms—According to Frances E. Jensen M.D., teenagers have a different sleep/wake cycle than adults and children. They naturally release melatonin a couple hours later in the day than the adults, which makes them natural night owls. Having to wake up in the morning creates a “social jet lag” which in turn makes them lazy. Therefore, those mornings that turn into afternoons before they get out of bed is just their biological clocks telling them they need to catch up on their sleep.
Growth spurts—Growing out of shoes the month after you bought them isn’t a result from taking vitamins. The chemicals that stimulate rapid growth during the teen years occur when they’re sleeping which may explain why teens want to sleep and relax more than their younger siblings.
Brain connections—No matter how intelligent a teenager may be, the part of their brain that deals with cognitive control, planning and neatness just isn’t developed yet—and probably won’t be until their mid 20s. So, it’s not entirely laziness that is causing the dishes and water bottles to pile up in their bedroom. Chalk it up to their undeveloped frontal and prefrontal cortices not giving the message to set aside time to clean up before they leave.
So, now that I have this science background on the teenage brain, am I more accepting of my daughter’s preferred 1 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. sleep time followed by breakfast on the sofa for another hour?
A little bit, yes. But taking a cue from my teen, I’m just too lazy (to fight it).
Hope you’re all having a great summer!