It Dawned on Me: Keeping teen hours

Dawn De Busk

By Dawn De Busk

BN Columnist

It’s been a goal of mine to stay close to my teenage daughter.

As any parent knows, it sometimes takes a slight of hands to maintain bonds while pro-offering freedom and responsibility.

In recent weeks and over the last couple days, we’ve grown closer through an unusual common bond. Being night owls.

No kidding — I’ve started to keep night owl hours in order to hang with my only child.

For me, it might be a bit of burning my candle on both ends. Yet, it’s no sacrifice to lose a little sleep in order to do things with my daughter during her prime-time hours.

Totally worth it ‘cause the hangout time is short lived.

On Sunday night, my daughter asked me to join her in watching a horror movie called The Babadook. She had started to watch it, and although it started out “slow” on the scariness Richter scale, she wanted my company. She suggested making some coffee concoctions and some snacks for the TV-watching session.

There she was standing on the deck with the evening stars behind her, asking me to spend time with her. I weighed the pros and cons before agreeing to it.

Watching horror flicks before bedtime is on my list of things to avoid based on past experiences. I glanced at my wristwatch, knowing it did not matter the time because my body’s internal clock was saying it was time to gear up for sleep. My daughter was saying some words to persuade me.

I repeated the sequence of looking at my watch and back at her several times. My brain — probably not the part that stores logic — came to the conclusion: Just do it.

Despite the distance between my current age and the time I was 14, I have not totally forgotten what it is like to be nocturnal. Since it is the midst of summer vacation from school, the natural sleep pattern of a teenager has overtaken my daughter. I mean she’s just going with it; and I decided to do the same.

So, I allowed the Babadook into our living room, into my nighttime mind.

Actually, I enjoyed the shared activity with my daughter. Also, I went to bed without any fears of Babadook, perhaps because I was too tired at 3 a.m. to continue thinking before I fell right to sleep.

The next day, we discussed the movie. I said the supernatural had not been real – it was the symptom of the mom’s lack of sleep. In the movie, every night the child spent hours awake and in fear of the monster in his bedroom and the mom was so obviously sleep deprived that she had begun hallucinating.

My daughter said it was just a horror movie.

Movies are art, I explained. A movie — no matter how many supernatural creatures are in it or how fictional it appears to be — can be compared to ordinary, everyday life, I said.

The movie could be symbolic of how fears and apprehensions can overtake a person’s life if they let those negative thoughts into their mind.

The Babadook knocks and the victim lets it in.

The Babadook could represent stress, bills, secret fears or unfinished business in a person’s life. Don’t let the Babadook rent space in your head, I said.

It is just a scary movie, my daughter said.

I agreed that a movie could be nothing more than entertainment. It’s just a horror movie, my daughter repeated.

We ended the conversation on that note (with her having the last word) because I was too tired to debate about it.

A day or so later, my daughter sat down at the kitchen table and began to share her research on sleep.

She had sought information on the Internet about human’s sleep patterns and the number of hours needed. She said a small percentage of the population could live on four hours or less. She said everybody’s sleep needs are different and it is not true that eight hours is the magic number. I was listening to her sharing with me what she had comprehended from “researching” something that interested her, something that was valid in her life now.

Yes, good news for those in the teaching professions, children don’t stop learning when school is out.

As a matter of a fact, a post-midnight horror flick can lead to reading summaries on sleep studies. And, there are lots of sleep studies from which to glean information

Teens can slumber for 12 hours and not rely on the sunlight’s cues.

More than an hour before midnight, a distraught woman showed up in our yard. She was searching for a lost black lab and happed upon our house because the lights were on and people were awake.

My daughter and her friends and I talked to the woman for a while, learning that her neighbors had beaten the dog. Well, they started out by beating up her boyfriend after a night of partying went awry; and when the dog tried to protect him, they beat the dog with a piece of metal.

The girls were horrified. There is no excuse for beating a dog, they said. The girls were amped up and ready to rescue the dog.

The lady said she hadn’t slept since this all happened two days ago.

I suggested the woman call animal control while we did what we could to help at that late hour. She did.

But, why wait for help when a person can leap into action? My daughter and her friends grabbed flashlights and headlamps and took off in search of the dog.

I agreed they could search until midnight as long as it was nearby. After all, they were acting on their compassion and love for animals. So, it was a positive learning lesson. Plus, it is summertime and the rules aren’t the same.

Later, I wondered what other parents would have done in my shoes.

These are gray areas of parenting that pop up after the sun sets and when the night owls are finding flight.

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