Talk about your lazy holidays. The daily routine of my teens over their recent December school break from school was as uniform as it was non-eventful – wake up really late, eat, Snapchat, Instagram, repeat.
The routine of my non-teens (ages 7 and 9) was a bit different – wake up a little late, eat, YouTube reels, go outside, play, come back in after 20 minutes, repeat.
Is this normal?
Everywhere I go, every fellow dad I speak with tells me that sleeping followed by endlessly gazing at a phone is the go-to teenage activity on these lazy holidays. On average, teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep and, with a nonexistent holiday break bedtime, I would expect them to awaken later. But noon?
The phone coma, though, I cannot stand. When I’m only mildly frustrated, I simply encourage my teens to go to the gym, for a walk/jog or to clean their room. They typically shun my suggestions as “boring.” When I’m all-out pissed (by 3 p.m.), I force them out of the house, relegating them to chores I make up out of desperation. These each end similarly – my teenagers claiming boredom after feeble attempts and eventually sinking back into a video of a chiropractor cracking necks.
My little ones, while prone to quicker shifts between activities, require the same daily prodding to get outside or to free play with non-connected things around them. I worry about them watching their zombie-like older siblings and deferring to a tablet versus knocking on the neighbor kids’ front door.
These behaviors are, I gather, normal. Given how busy families are I do think some lazy days during breaks are just fine. But every day for two weeks?
Should my kids’ lazy holidays worry me?
While I acknowledge holiday break lethargy is normal, I have three major worries as I watch my kids.
First, if any of them use their social channels to call friends out. For instance, there are times when my kids will say “XX is at the beach but he/she can’t go to bowling with me?” This blame-game excuse for why they are left at home is lame and unhealthy.
Next, I see my kids using Snapchat or Instagram to judge the willingness (or availability) of friends to do anything.
“Can you and Jimmy hang today, Lynden?” I might suggest.
“Wait, let me check Snap to see if he’s around. Nope, looks like he’s with Jake,” scrolling continues.
I worry none of our kids are reaching out to each other. I am convinced they are on their phones while laying around, claiming they are bored while secretly hoping someone else takes the initiative to reach out. Reaching out is easier now, right?!!?
My final worry spurned by my kids’ holiday laziness is that tired seems to beget tired. Because of their day-long coma, the odd times when they are presented with decent social options, my kids might choose to pass.
What does/should/can this break tell me about my kids?
Under the backdrop of this inactivity during the holidays, should I re-evaluate the lengths I go to keep my children active throughout the year? If they are sooo exhausted, should we cut down on the soccer games, school plays, dance recitals, or music lessons? If they haven’t touched a soccer ball during the break, why should I shell out big money to have them travel the state for competitive tournaments? If no one reaches out for a playdate or to go to a movie, should I worry that my sons or daughters are the school nerds?
These questions swirled in my head during our recent break as I watched my kids. I could have answered each differently every time, with varying levels of frustrated concern.
As I reflect now, though, I come back to the idea that my job is to provide and support my kids. With that mindset, I need not try to answer these questions as much as I acknowledge they will not be answered today. Fueled by that awareness, I can ask the right questions of my kids instead of having them feel judged or scared to be themselves around me. Maybe the constant worry and over-analysis does nothing for my family in the long term.
So, as with most parenting conundrums, I am left looking in the mirror.
What might my holiday break routine say about me? Mine was not like my kids’. I would wake up, exercise, eat, then worry, judge, plan, get frustrated, and repeat.
Just like my kids’ routines, though, mine might be as normal as, ultimately, meaningless.