Sleep deprivation second time round: the teenage years

When you have a baby you know you'll be sleep deprived. Roll the clock forward 15 years and wouldn't you expect things to be different? Don't you imagine being blessed with all the sleep you could wish for, lazy lie-ins and dream filled nights?

Well wise up because it doesn't happen. Early nights are off the menu for starters! You're too busy driving from A to B and back to C to even contemplate a nice mug of Horlicks. And in the evenings when there are no extra-curriculum activities to be driven to, they go out partying - and that's worse!

It works a bit like this. It's Friday night and way past my planned 9:30pm bedtime. I'm just waiting for a call or text to say all is fine before I settle down to sleep. Sleep? In your dreams!

Nothing is louder to a mother than the silence of their child's mobile. Have they forgotten to call or is it something more sinister? Chances are they have just forgotten, like they have on so many other occasions.

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There's no doubt mobile phones are a great communication system, only problem is they rely on not one but two functioning humans. And are teenagers functioning humans?

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"I'm so sorry mum, I was just texting you then the bus came and by the time I got on I had forgotten." But why didn't you reply to my text? "Sorry I left my phone on silent." Hence you can be ringing for hours, sending umpteen texts, imagining the worst and you might as well be blowing bubbles in the fog.

So why do I let them do this to me? Well obviously I'm a doormat but the arrangements are always made with utter reasonableness in mind. For example: "Everyone is getting the late bus. I don't want to be the only one leaving at 10:30 because it wouldn't be nice on the bus on my own. And I'm with Lauren who is very sensible so we'll be fine."

But is their fine even on the same line graph as my version of fine, most likely not. This, or a variant, has happened many times and the number of times it has had a happy ending – in terms of my sleep count – are few.

So, unsurprisingly I get the call at about 11:20pm. Sensible Lauren has got a little bit drunk, vomited all over her clothes and the driver won't let her on the bus in case she soils his seats. Oh and Laura's mum would be very cross so they thought they'd better ring me instead. So she can soil my seats instead? Anyway I might as well go and get them because – wait for it – I'm awake now anyway. How do you reason with that logic when you're half asleep?

So can you see why being woken by your baby is almost a pleasure in comparison? The piteous call of a sweet defenceless little creature who always welcomes you with a joyful smile is somewhat different to a call from a drunken teenager.

When you get woken by your baby you sneak along a cosy landing in your slippered feet - easier than driving five miles in the sheeting rain. And then you can get back into bed with the vision of your innocent baby snug as bug – a far cry from a sodding great teenager who last smiled at you joyfully at least five years ago.

There are no sleep tips on offer to parents of teenagers, no controlled crying techniques to consider – there's just plenty of uncontrolled crying. And it doesn't end there.

Saturday morning you'll be up with the rooster in order to drag them out of bed to get them to wherever it is they need to be – rugby, dance, origami for beginners, it doesn't matter what it is.

The laws of the universe dictate that they all happen early in the morning at least 30 minutes drive away. So there's no popping them in front of the latest Disney offering to get just 15 minutes more. You have to be up, dressed and driving – oh and you should really have full make up on in case your grey face is an embarrassment to them.

But you know what is possibly more irritating than all of this? It's the times when they stay in and I still have to get up in the night. "You will remember to make sure the doors are closed so the dog, the cat and any vermin they collect in the night can't get upstairs," I say sternly.
"Yes mum," comes the bored and disinterested reply.
"And don't forget to put the lights out." "Yes mum."

MIAOW, MIAOW and repeated scratching at the door wakes me at 2:00am. I go downstairs with the cat and switch all the lights off. Festering and furious sleep doesn't come easy.

And one last thing. During those long sleep deprived baby days isn't there just that little bit of comfort in knowing that underneath your exhausted grey countenance there is a dewy fresh faced vision of youth and loveliness waiting to reappear.

The sleep deprivation that comes with having teenagers is different. Underneath the exhausted grey face is just layer upon layer of exhausted grey faces, youth and loveliness as distant as a good night's sleep.

Does this sound familiar to you parents of teenagers?

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