Memoir Parenting

To Get Up or to Zzzzzzzz

alarm clock, bought from IKEA
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Monkey started 7th grade this year. When I think back to 7th grade, I recall I awoke each morning at 6:30 AM with the help of my digital alarm clock which I had carefully set to 62 WHEN the night before.

Once showered, I made myself breakfast — either a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal or a bagel with cream cheese — and by 7:15 AM, I quietly walked into my parents’ bedroom, took four quarters from my father’s dresser (with his permission), so I could buy lunch. I then kissed my mother and my father who were sprawled in their king-sized bed beneath a giant comforter. I was generally met by sleepy sounds, sometimes a little muttering, and bad breath; it was a daily routine, and it worked. They got a good night’s rest, and I got to watch The New Zoo Revue on our 7” black and white television, uninterrupted, for about a half an hour.

Eventually, depending on the weather, I put on the most appropriate outdoor coat — if it was cold, I popped on mittens and a hat. Since UGGS had not yet been invented and boots were totally uncool in 1978, I always wore my clogs. From there, I made opened the front door carrying whatever I might have brought home for homework (read: nothing) and walked about 1/4 mile from my parents’ little house to the closest bus stop and waited with a cluster of other neighborhood kids.

Fast-forward 30 years. Monkey completes a similar ritual where he wakes, dresses, makes his breakfast, gathers his stuff — paper stars, drawings of dragons, pencils, books, two huge binders filled with worksheets and completed homework — and crams it all into his backpack.

I hear Monkey moving around starting at 6:20 AM, and I stick my pillow over my head. Unlike my parents who stayed in bed, confident in my organizational abilities — or never really even thought about if I had everything I needed or not — I feel totally guilty for staying in bed. I mean I suppose I could drag myself downstairs at that unseemly hour, but I am just so dang tired.

And warm.

I don’t know why I feel I should go downstairs and smooch Monkey before he leaves the house. Maybe I feel like I should make sure his clothes match – because he’s not very good at that. Or maybe I feel I should check to make sure that his hair is brushed – because, to be honest, he is pretty lax in that area, too. Maybe it’s his teeth I’m worried about. You know, I just like to make sure that he in minty-fresh before he heads out the door because, again, the whole hygiene thing is currently not his forte.

I don’t do this though.

So typically Monkey does just what I used to do. He comes upstairs to announce he is leaving.

Except some days, he doesn’t.

Some days, the kids he walks with show up at our sliding glass doors and I hear the glass doors roll across the floor followed by a slam. I lie there, imagining him walking down the back steps, towards the enormous school that looms in our backyard. (I know it was designed to look like a dairy farm; still, it looms.)

On those days, I miss him.

My husband wonders what is wrong with me.

He says I should be thrilled that we have raised an independent person who can make cereal and bagels and waffles and eggs and (sometimes) remembers to brush his teeth and hair.

And I am.

But it doesn’t mean I’m not working against some weird maternal energy that wants to “just check” on him.

My parents never sweated over this stuff.

At what age did your parents step out of the picture so you could start doing things independently? How are you about completely stepping out of the picture? And more importantly, what morning TV shows did you watch while your parents were sleeping?
© Renée Schuls-Jacobson 2011. All rights reserved.

45 thoughts on “To Get Up or to Zzzzzzzz

    1. Good morning Galit! No! Seriously, I really WANT to be out of this part! What is wrong with me that I feel like a bad parent if I don’t go and just check to make sure he has everything?

      Although, I do like the big kiss part.

      And what if he doesn’t come upstairs?!

  1. Looking back on my 7th grade mornings, I feel totally spoiled. My mom or dad usually woke me up each morning. They both got up super early for work and one or the other of them would cook a full breakfast and we would all eat together before my parents left for work. Then my brother and I would usually fight and watch old Addam’s Family episodes on channel 20 until it was time to walk down our hill for the bus.

    When my girls were in 7th grade, I was working, so while I was up with them, we were all doing our own morning routine until it was time to leave. We live in an area that doesn’t provide bus service if you live within 2 miles of the school (we live exactly 2 miles away) so I dropped them off on my way to work.

    Once I stopped working, I was usually always up before they got up. I’d drink coffee and chat with them while they got ready and made their own breakfast, but if I felt like sleeping in, I did.

    🙂 Nice post!

    1. HI Sprinkles! My brother and I only had the same schedule when I was a senior and he was a freshman in high school. That said, by middle school — and henceforward, I was essentially on my own. And I liked it.

      And my son says he likes being alone in the mornings. He can watch TV or play with his iTouch.

      Still, I feel this pressure to come downstairs. Obviously, I have internalized by a lot of societal guilt about what a “good” parent should do.

      *Oooh, that sounded fancy.

      1. Just slap away that guilt, dear lady! It’s not like you’re allowing him to get ready each morning in a meth lab! He’s well cared for, safe and sound, and learning to take care of himself. I think you are doing what a good parent should do. 🙂 And you always sound very fancy!

  2. Your parents might have felt guilty about not getting up, too. I’ll wait for Joanie’s response! Since my parents both worked in schools, everyone in the family was up that early.

    I did walk to the bus stop (and later to school). Nowadays it seems that more parents are driving their kids to school or waiting at the bus stop with them until the bus comes. Is there that much of a greater safety issue now, or is it a generational thing? Even in elementary school, I think we would have been humiliated if our parents waited at the bus stop with us.

    I liked PuffNStuff. Now I’ll have The New Zoo Review theme in my head all day. Thanks.

    1. Larisa:

      Believe me when I tell you my mother never sweated anything. She will likely say that by her staying in bed, I learned how to be independent.

      That I learned how to make my own breakfast, how to do dishes, how to clean up after myself, and I figured out how to get myself to the bus on-time (time-management skills). She’d say I figured out what clothes were appropriate for what weather. Lots of important life skills. SHe’s say by learning to make the bus, I was learning about making deadlines.

      I was a walker until middle school, and I walked so frickin’ far, today’s parents’ heads would roll. And yes, I would have DIED if either of my parents had tried to escort me. Even in elementary school. I think we were a more independent generation without a doubt, but people were much less afraid in the 1970s.

      NOTE: I loved PuffNStuff — (“Puffin’ Stuff”) — someday I’ll blog about shows from the 70s that would never make it on TV today. What a great topic. Maybe you can help me brainstorm. 😉

      1. Maybe I’m missing something because I’m not a parent, but it seems that many parents are much more over-protective than I remember. My parents had no problem letting wait at the bus stop alone in elementary school, and walk to middle and high school alone (or with my friends). Now I see parents waiting with their kids in their cars until the bus comes (It stops right in front of our gated community).

        I remember your earlier blog about people commenting on your decision to send Monkey to overnight camp. Most of my friends went to overnight camp (if they wanted to). I think my my parents were happy for the break (but you can check with them).

        I was also allowed to go to my first solo concert in another city – I was 16 and went from Syracuse to Rochester, NY to see CSN. AWESOME!!

        They also let me go to London with two friends when I was 17 – my 18-year old friend was our legal gaurdian. We survived. They weren’t even too upset that I got fire-engine red highlights in my hair!

        By the way – both in Rochester and London I stayed with friends I met in camp.

        I think your parents had the right idea. You and your bro both turned out to be independent adults and great parents!

        But I would like to hear from your readers who are actually parents and might have a different view.

  3. I love the way you always paint a picture for us, and I don’t think you’re crazy for wanting to see Monkey before he leaves in the morning (although, yeah, I think I’d stay in bed, too, LOL, I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that)!

    I was the youngest by 4 years, so by the time my parents got to me, their attitude was, “Whatevs.” I picked out my own clothes really early on, and rode my bike to school with friends when I was very young (9 maybe?). I started baby-sitting other kids when I was 11. I should mention I was still a spoiled brat. 😉

    1. Morning Jules:

      Do you think your parents’ “whateves” attitude made you stronger? Gave you life skills? Sounds like you do.

      Like you, I did most of my babysitting when I was in 7th grade — so 12 and 13. These days, most people wouldn’t even consider a 7th grader as a viable babysitter.

      Have I won your contest yet? 😉

  4. I was never the morning Mom for my kids. It worked in the end. I do remember being set free to take care of myself independently early maybe 13 but there was a whole passel of us keeping each other on track. Our morning fair I don’t even recall! We had shorter siblings so I expect it ran to educational stuff if the tv went on. (which really it didn’t much)
    I like stepping out and back for kids because it reinforces personal responsibility. It was hard though. They gotta make their choices. Eek on some of those.

    1. You had like 80 million siblings! Didn’t you guys just take care of each other? I thought that’s why your parents had so many of you. 😉

      And didn’t you have like 30 million kids, too? 😉 There are a lot of good things that go along with having a lot of kids. And letting them handle things definitely reinforces personal responsibility; but I only have one dude. Maybe I feel guilty about him being alone.

      Can I assume isrbrown says two thumbs up to staying in bed?

  5. Wait, you’re a teacher, don’t you have to get up at some ridiculously early hour so you can be to school on time? I don’t think there is anything wrong with you worrying about him. We still wake our kids up every day because we are up anyway and if we didn’t they would probably not get up until noon. That being said, I drive them to school most days and can’t really imagine not seeing them in the mornings. My mom was always around in the mornings as kid, at least until I got into High School. But I know some folks who work crazy hours whose kids get themselves all ready to roll in the morning, I think that’s impressive.

    1. Hi Steve:

      I teach at community college and my classes don’t start until after he leaves. So I have the luxury of hanging out with hubby until 7:15 am. But my dude is gone by then.

      I’m not “worrying” about him. He’s awesome. I just feel guilty. Like I should be doing something. I don’t remember exactly how old your kids are, but I don’t wake up my 12-year old. He gets himself up everyday with his alarm clock. We’re all about personal responsibility in this joint and have been since he was very young.

      I’m curious. Why don’t you have your kids take the bus? I’m starting to think as a society we should do away with morning buses, since so few children actually use them! And they cost a fortune!

      1. My kids are 10 and 13, will be 11 and 14 in the next couple months. They used to take a bus when they were both in elementary school. Because we are in a rural area and the school district pulls from a large geographic area, their bus ride was taking upwards of 45 minutes each way. That was okay since elementary starts at about 9:00 am. When daughter entered middle school which starts much earlier, the bus would have had to pick her up before the roosters wake up! I can drive them into town and to school in about 10 minutes and it’s on the way to work. Mom picks them up in the afternoons or evenings, depending on the days activities. So, it’s really just a convenience thing, rather than us ever having any bus issues, although that was in the back of our minds too. You are right though, the line of cars dropping kids off in the mornings can get pretty long.

      2. Nooooo! Don’t get rid of the school buses! Get rid of all the parents driving their kids to school! I know kids who live about a quarter mile from school who are getting dropped off by a parent. And I don’t just mean when it’s 10 below or pouring rain, in which case, okay, give ’em a ride.

        1. Faith:

          I am so with you, but I shouldn’t talk about the bus thing because my dude walks. It is my understanding it can be a gauntlet. That said, I do wish parents would let their children ride the dang buses.

          Unless they have a giant project of a baleen whale made (to scale) out of cake and glitter, put ’em on the dang bus!

  6. First … I loved New Zoo Revue. How very cool that you referenced it with a bonus clip! Awesomeness.

    Second. Yes to all of it. Yes. Mine are younger, still fairly independent.
    I admire our parents way of not sweating this sort of stuff.

  7. Just this morning, as Michael kept nagging at me to get up and wake up Zoe, I thought to myself, ” why do I have to get up? and why is my hubby waking me instead of the kid?” So I had had a talk with Zoe about setting her clock and getting herself to school. Reading this just confirms that I am am doing her no good by waking her and checking on her and nagging her. Thank you! Monday I will be sleeping in!

  8. My kids both get themselves together in the morning without any help from us. Pop tarts 5 days a week!!! We are busy getting ourselves ready. Unfortunately, my kids dont have a bus option so I have to take them. Other than having to remind my 12 year he really has school today. They fend for themselves. They are 12 and 14 and have been “handling” their mornings for a long time.

    All I remember about getting ready for school was how effin cold it was in the winter mornings. Nothing like the inside of your nose frozen to start the day.

    1. Jeff:

      Since we grew up at exactly the same time (in almost the same ‘hood) and our parents were friendly, I will assume we are parenting the way we were parented. Does this sound true?

      You sound like you have less guilt about stuff than I do though. Maybe that’s just a guy thing. 😉

  9. Man, I wish my Thing 1 would get up and get ready like Monkey does. I’ve got enough to do in the morning without having to spend 1/2 hour yelling at her to get up and get moving.

    These days, I’m up at 5 til 6, to start getting the kidlet up and moving. Then I’m back in bed until 5 after 6 when I kick the Boss out of bed. Then I get 15 minutes of peace before the dog sticks her nose in my face wanting to be scratched and loved. It’s our morning thing, I don’t mind anymore. Then I’m up making 4 lunches and getting the Boss and Thing 1 off to school. Sometime between 5:30 and 6:30 Thing 2 wakes up, takes about 10 seconds to rub the sleep from his eyes, get dressed, eat breakfast, and put all his stuff in his backpack. It’s good to have one kid who I can depend on to be ready quickly and early.

    When I was a kid, I think I was pretty much on my own when I was in third or fourth grade. The only thing I didn’t necessarily do is wake up. Usually my mom would wake me up as she left for work, but I was on my own from there.

    1. Eric!

      This is so interesting. I am noticing a huge difference in the comments I receive on my blog as compared to the comments that people have left on my FB page!

      So your mom woke you up and then you were on your own — in 4th grade. My mom bowed out of the pic in 6th grade.

      Glad you get those 15 minutes of peace! 😉

  10. Hi daughter Renee:

    When you were a baby, a toddler, and an elementary school child, I definitely got up for you and your brother. I always waved good-bye to you both in the morning.

    However, when you became a 6th grader, a family tradition began. My mom enjoyed sleeping late in the morning, so she left me money for lunch. So when you got older, I did the same thing. It worked for me so why not for you guys? It made you responsible!

    I definitely was not perfect! Shucks! However, I love you with all my heart. You grew up in spite of me and you ARE a wonderful parent to your son.

  11. I totally have the New Zoo Revue theme song stuck in my head now. When the kids first came to live with us, we all got up together and did family breakfast. Then the oldest starting trying to get out of it. Then we got real tired. We work nights. It’s hard getting up with them. My husband and I trade off now because we have to make lunches. Breakfast is self-serve. They don’t always wake up on time by themselves. The last one to leave now is the youngest, and he can’t get across the street by himself. I imagine by the time he’s old enough I will be like you- putting my head under the pillow and being jarred awake by my guilt.

    1. Hi JM:

      Did you not LOVE the New Zoo Revue? I can sing it without even having to look at lyrics. Meanwhile, people look at me like I’m an alien and have never heard of that show before.

      I thought Doug was so hot.

      Trading off morning duty when you and hubby both work nights makes a lot of sense.

      This morning I decided that I was not going to feel guilty anymore, but then I went to my personal FB page where someone essentially called me “lazy” for not getting up. I guess one person’s “lazy” is another person’s “creating an independent child.”

  12. I was micro-managed for a long time. Danny is the early riser so he always got breakfast ready for the kids and I would come down when I smelled the brewed coffee. I think as mothers we put a lot on ourselves. You are raising a very self-sufficient boy!
    Lucky Charms??? Sooo lucky!! My mom only bought Cheerios!

  13. First, I love New Zoo Review. LOVE. I can still sing the entire theme song even without watching the clip.

    Not sure what this says about me. Something good, I hope. Fingers crossed.

    Having said that, I get up with my kids every morning. I make them breakfast, pack their lunches and see them off to school (after making sure they are wearing sweatshirts when it’s cold).

    I think this is because I always had to be up before them when I was teaching full time and felt guilty about leaving them sitting in the playground (sometimes alone) a half hour before their school started from the time they were in first grade. Even on rainy days. Shudder.

    So the day I took a leave of absence and could devote my mornings to them, I did.

    Are they less independent than you were and Monkey is? For sure.

    It works for us. For now.

    I know that eventually (probably very soon) they won’t want me intruding on their lives. So while it lasts?

    I’ll take it.

    1. Julie:

      Maybe it’s because Monkey is an only and he is used to entertaining himself, but seriously, if I come downstairs, he looks at me like I am intruding.

      Like I am an alien.

      Like can’t a man/boy just eat his Lucky Charms in peace?

      And, of course you know all the words to New Zoo Revue.

      Me too!

      Did you ever wonder about Doug and his “helper” Emmy Jo? What was going on there? Really? His “helper”? Ick.

      Who cared. I loved Henrietta Hippo. 😉

  14. It all started with me and my brother not going to our home school. We were driven every morning, even when our middle school was 10 minutes away. We kept up the routine until I drove myself to high school. What can I say? I have great memories of that time with my mother. Sometimes we talked or she talked, and I was forced to listen. After all, I was a captive audience in the car! Other times, we listened to the radio and sang songs. I even used to play some Two and a Half Men videos on my phone for entertainment.

    Yes, all this driving in the morning meant that she was late for work for years. She didn’t mind at all, and no one at work, not even her boss, ever said anything to her. It was just an established routine, and it was never questioned. It helped that she was very good at what she did.

    I’ll never forget those rides and neither will my brother, Jeff.

    1. So, rmiller, what I’m getting from you is that you enjoyed the time in the car with your mom. I LOVE being with my dude, too. And we have tons of car time as we travel to and from his sport 3 times a week — that’s NINE rides 30 minutes each way. We chat it up plenty.

      You said that you and your brother did not elect to go to your home school. I’ll assume that there was something about the home school that wasn’t a good fit for you. So I’m also assuming there was no bus option and that walking would have been too far. Okay.

      But your mom was late for work? Every day? I don’t know what she does or what kind of financial situation your family has, but that would not be tolerated by many employers. For example, I could not be late for my job. My students would leave. And I’ll have to assume she either has a lot of flexibility in her position or she had a conversation with her employer about her needs. And she must be very good at what she does. You are really fortunate.

      It sounds like your mom was getting up early to go to work anyway; that is not the case in this house. Hubby and I don’t have to be up until after our son is gone. Monkey likes to chill by himself in the mornings. He’s not a morning talker. He talks all the rest of the day though. 😉

      Sounds like you have a great relationship with your mom who has made many sacrifices for you. Remember her everyday. Not just on birthdays and Mother’s Day!

      1. Yes, the home school was not a good fit academically for me. Yes, my mom negotiated a late start to her day. Yes, my mother has made many sacrifices for me and Jeff. Yes, we do appreciate her and tell her that we love her just about every day.

  15. My mom worked overnights, that way she would be home when we got home from school, asleep on the couch, but home. We had some awesome hippie babysitters that would stay overnight with us and eventually my step-dad arrived on the scene. But we took care of ourselves early on.

    I am working on my 14 year old…even as I write this there are plans afoot.

    She has had the (dis) advantage of having her grandmother come over a few mornings a week to get her off to school (so I could go in to work earlier and be home sooner after school let out) for several years.

    Grandmother definitely ‘grandmothers” her…is willing to do it all and abide with most requests (pleas) because grandmother doesn’t have to get herself ready at the same time. But then the mornings I was here, my attempts to push more independent behavior (because I also had to get ready for work) were met with resistance and left me feeling….guilty. Cuz “Bubbie does this for me…” And, yes, since I was trying to get ready, too, sometimes it just felt easier to give in than ‘deal with it.’

    So this past week I scheduled myself at work at a time that meant I had to leave the house 30 minutes before school (3 blocks away) starts for her. She has the option of a) getting ready fast and being ready to hop in my car by 5 minutes before 7, or b) walking her self to school after I leave, or c) attempting ‘a’ and watching my tail-lights leave without her when it’s too late and she hasn’t managed her time well. But it leaves it entirely in her hands and it worked pretty well… and I did not experience any guilt.

    Waking her up is an issue right now…she is a seriously sleep-deprived teenager. Her attempts to manage her time on her own (“I can do it, Mom[insert ‘tone’ here]!” these first two months of HS have not been as successful as either of us would like. But I gave her just enough rope to *almost* hang herself. Plans are in-the-works to take the reigns back long enough to help her get her cart back on the path, give her some ‘driving’ tips and tools and then slowly relinquish the reigns again….

    1. Ginny! You are one level-headed, thoughtful mother! I know that with careful discussions your daughter will rise to the challenge of being more independent. And, if you don’t mind, I’m going to praise you for trying to raise an independent daughter rather than coddling her. Backing off isn’t easy, but I’m guessing that she will go father faster and gain a lot of valuable life skills along the way. 😉

  16. I so understand. When I was a teen, I just wanted peace and quiet getting out the door. The more alone the better. But my son gets up at 6 a.m. for high school. Insane. I know it helps him if I get up and fix his breakfast and lunch. Some mornings, though, I leave him to himself, and he’s fine.

    I remind myself that at only two years his senior, I had moved away from home. I should surely give him practice at doing the basics without me while I’m still available for questions. But then I think, “I only have two years left to do this for him.” It’s a tough one.

    Thanks for your fun post.

  17. I started stepping out much earlier than my mom wanted. I’m glad she let me do so, for the most part, understanding implicitly that taking a different stance would drive a further wedge between our two willful but loving selves.

    I relate to the sadness, if it starts in a different way for me. On the mornings Ba.D. takes Li’l D to daycare, I usually walk our dog out at the same time they’re leaving. I usually stop and stand where Li’l D can see me, so we smile and wave to each other as he passes.

    A couple of mornings, I’ve been distracted when he’s gone by, and I’ve realized too late I’ve missed our wave. Even thinking about that little miss fills me with sadness.

    I hope Li’l D is not as willful-for-the-sake-of-it as I was, although I hope he’ll be as independent as Monkey eventually.

    1. Thanks Deb. For this. I was an early stepper-outer, too. Maybe my dude is just following in his mamma’s footsteps? I just want him to be too independent too fast. I want him to know I will come downstairs if he’d like me to be there.

      I think he knows. 😉

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