This week, we had Open House night at Billy's high school. We followed his (all-Honors-level) class schedule - up and down stairs, along hallways, from one end of the building to the other and back, a couple times over. It was a workout. And we weren't carrying textbooks and a laptop, as he does. Of course, when classes end, that's not the end of Billy's day. He then heads across the street to the football stadium locker room for two-and-a-half hours of football practice.
Some days it's hot. Some days it's cold. Some days it's rainy. But they always practice.
Billy get's home from practice around 6:00 p.m. We have dinner. On Tuesdays, he has his guitar lesson. And it's not until after dinner that he can start his homework. As if that's not enough, like most teenagers, Billy has an active social life, which means he's managing text messages and online chats with friends, teammates - and yes - girls, throughout the evening.
When I stop to think about it, which I often don't, it really is both amazing and exhausting. But I think it's important for parents to step into their kids' shoes every once in a while, as we did, briefly, at the high school Open House. Because when I did stop to think about Billy's daily schedule, I got a better understanding of why his laundry isn't always picked up, why he sleeps 'til noon on (non-game-day) Saturdays, and even why he's hungry ALL THE TIME!
As parents, we have our priorities and demands on our time. I work, cook, do laundry, manage our social calendar, and try to keep our house presentable. And sometimes, it seems I'm not getting a lot of cooperation from my sons (especially in the keeping-the-house-presentable category). But when I stop and look at what they really do on a daily basis, I find I'm a bit more likely to cut them a break.
Billy doesn't always clean his room. But he gets excellent grades. He doesn't always put the milk away. But he does make his own spending money by umping for Little League and teaching music at Sunday school. He's willing to babysit for his younger brother. He's loving and responsible. He's really a good kid.
As parents, I think we all need to take a moment -preferably BEFORE nagging our teens - and think about how much pressure they're under, and what their positive attributes are. I'm not saying parents should give their teens a free pass on chores or other responsibilities, that wouldn't be good parenting either. But take a moment to try to look at life from their perspective and maybe cut them a break.
So, Billy, you don't have to clean your room. Until Sunday.