Do You Lie Awake Worrying When Your Teen Is Out at Night?

by Nerys Copelovitz
Originally Published: 
Animated colored sketch of a worried mother wearing a purple pajama while her teen is out at night

So you thought that when your youngest passed the sleepless nights stage, the wet-the-bed stage, the nightmares stage, the fear-of-death stage—that your nights were going to be a haven of blissed-out, rejuvenating, interruption-free deep sleep? In your dreams! Got teens? Welcome to Sleepless Nights, Teenage Version.

Teenagers’ social lives get going at a time when most of us early-rising, hard-working, million-task-completing, had-a-long-day parents are ready to hit the sack. The situation gets even worse during vacation, when there’s no “school tomorrow” excuse to rein them in at a reasonable hour. Days become nights, nights become days, and for us parents, sleep becomes punctuated by noisy, door-banging, kitchen-using, toilet-flushing, telephone-pinging nocturnal house invaders.

So what kind of parent do you become when your teenager hits the town just as you are ready to turn in?

Stalker Parents have THAT app that tracks their offspring’s movements so they know where they are at any given moment. Stalker parents have an artificial sense of control, so they get into bed kidding themselves that they are going to sleep—and then lie awake checking up on the “target’s” movements until they are home. When their teenager does return, they fake sleep because they can’t be seen to be stalking. Stalker parents should prepare themselves for the day when their offspring learn to disable the app.

Bad Cop Parents don’t believe in any of that teenage melatonin late-night crap. Their kids will be in by a set curfew time and “that’s the law in our house—if you don’t like it you know what you can do with it.” They stay up with a stopwatch, hugging the door to make sure their rules are kept. Bad Cop Parents can expect rebellious teens and the necessity for rigorous application of punishments.

Mother Duck Parents can’t sleep until all their ducklings are safely home in the nest. They stay up waiting for their baby to come home, dozing off in front of the TV and then groggily surfacing when they hear the key in the lock, only to sigh in relief and stumble to bed for a few blissful hours before work. Mother Duck Parents are likely to suffer from an excess of advantage-taking teenagers, but will weather it with silent resignation.

Laissez-Faire Parents do not interfere in their children’s social life and trust them to behave reasonably. They go to bed and only know if their progeny came home safely when they rise in the morning after a good night’s sleep. The laissez-faire approach is a win-win for both sides, but near impossible to attain.

Out of the Loop Parents don’t know where their teenager went, who they’re with or what time they can be expected home because the parents have lost all control, or their teen is uncommunicative. Out of the loop parents stay up, agitatedly texting their unresponsive kids while pacing and worrying about what horrid fate may have befallen them. When they do roll up, all hell breaks loose, thus perpetuating the broken relationship.

Tired As Hell Parents get into bed intending to sleep because they know the who, where and when’s and trust their teens to honor them. But responsible parents don’t sleep while their kids are out, right? What if something happened to them and we slept the night away? Three hours later they wake up to the sound of the key in the lock, groggily remember that their child was due home, then snooze guiltily on; or randomly wake up, blearily check the clock and stumble to the suspect’s room to see if the bed is being slept in. Panicked texts may ensue.

So how much sleep did you get last night? Welcome to the club.

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