By Rachel Pieh Jones
When the twins were young, I thought they would never sleep. Or never at the same time and never at the time I also wanted to sleep. Now our trouble is the exact opposite. My twin teenagers go to school for three months and then have a month break. By the time that break comes, they are exhausted and all they seem to want to do is sleep and eat.
So, to ensure the teens participate in our family activities even while on vacation or to get them to their jobs on time or to simply see them during daylight hours, I’ve had to take drastic measures. I have employed a variety of methods and they always end with me laughing, the kid groaning, and Mom emerging as victorious.
Here, I pass these suggestions on to other parents, also desperate to see their teens open-eyed before noon:
Preamble: In between each step, wait five to ten minutes. Always knock before entering the room. Even though they are probably still sleeping, you just never know and should respect their privacy. Remember, their brain chemistry is undergoing some serious hormonal onslaughts and they do need inordinate amounts of sleep. Remember also that they are working hard at school, enduring the stress of the teenage social world. It might help to have breakfast (or lunch, depending on the hour) already on the table so they can just stumble from bed to chair. This list builds upon itself, so each additional step is performed on top of the preceding steps.
After step 3, you will begin entering the room but you have performed the required knock several times by now, so feel free.
It is vital to remember that each step must be enacted with love, affection, and the teens ultimate best interest in mind.
I skipped some earlier steps which seemed self-evident and which I also employ before launching the following onslaught. These could include things like setting alarm clocks (my son sets five and misses them all), simply knocking on the door and saying, “Time to get up,” gently rubbing their back or leg or arm and reminding them of the day’s obligations, and sending younger siblings in to do the job for us. When/if these fail…
1. Pound on the door. I mean pound, full-fisted, make it rattle.
2. Shout, “Time to wake up. Time to wake up. Time to wake up.”
3. Add the loudest rooster crow you can muster.
4. (You are now in the room) Shake their shoulder and say, “Good morning.”
5. Yank the pillow out from under their head and say, less gently, “Good morning.”
6. With great gusto, whip away their sheet or blanket.
7. Start hitting them (gently) with the pillow and with each tap say, “Up. Up. Up.”
8. Flick their ears repeatedly. Alternating ears is helpful but not required.
9. Flick other parts of their body: head, back, chest. Or tapping, tapping can also prove effective.
10. Pull arm hair. Pull leg hair. Stay clear of the armpit air.
11. Plug their nose so they are forced to breathe out of their mouth but back up quickly or turn your head away when that mouth exhales.
12. Crow like a rooster (yes, again), while performing karate on their back or chest (you know I mean to do this gently but firmly, right?)
13. Pull them by one arm out of bed. This will only leave them asleep on the floor but they are now a few feet closer to the shower, consider that time saved later.
14. Threaten to record this whole ordeal (which has taken over an hour and can replace your aerobics routine for the day) and offer to post it on YouTube and Instagram.
15. Say all kinds of wonderful things about yourself, like what a great mother you are, how good-looking and smart and creative you are, something about your awesome sense of humor and ability to relate to younger generations. Move their heads up and down in agreement. Record this as well and threaten to post it.
16. And last but not least, ice cubes. They never fail.
In my experience, the only method that produces my desired result is #16 but I just can’t bring myself to start there. The result probably won’t be what you are really aiming at—an alert, up and about, teenager but it does result in opened eyes and verbal acknowledgment of what an annoying mother you are. I consider that: mission accomplished.
Though, on second thought, I have yet to follow-through with the YouTube threat. That might be a pretty effective method if I did it just once. The dread of such shame could be enough to get those sleepy teens out of bed.
Now if these methods would only be so effective in getting them to do their homework…
Rachel Pieh Jones lives in Djibouti with her husband and three children: 14-year old twins and a 9-year old who feel most at home when they are in Africa. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, FamilyFun, Babble, and Running Times. Visit her at: Djibouti Jones, her Facebook page or on Twitter @rachelpiehjones.