It was 7:15 a.m. on Monday morning and my 12-year-old son was still in bed. His younger sisters were up, complaining about our cereal choices. His mother was almost ready for her day of teaching, and I was trying to get the kids out the door so I could get myself to work. But our son, Tristan, was refusing to get up and go. I’ll be honest, I lost it for a moment.
I went into his room, turned on the light, and went into lecture mode. I told him that he needed to stop holding up the whole family. I told him that the real world was not going to put up with this crap, and he needed to get moving. He didn’t move at all, but instead put his blanket over his head, and made a long groan.
“You better be out of that bed in the next two minutes,” I said. I set up the statement as if it was going to be followed with a potential punishment, but I was too tired to come up with something because it was Monday morning. I was tired too, so I just let the empty threat hang there, incomplete, as I left his room.
Not that this is particularly unusual for him each and every morning. He is always is the last one out of bed. But Tuesday through Friday, we can usually get his little tween butt out of bed by 7 a.m. On Mondays though… forget about it.
The wild thing is, this dragging his feet on Monday usually begins on Saturday night. He starts to talk about how he doesn’t want to go to school on Monday. By Sunday, he seems to be dreading the idea of going to school, and by Monday morning it has become this huge anxious filled concern that keeps him from getting out of bed. And sure, there have been times when we have thought about just letting him stay home rather than keep fighting with him, but I know this isn’t the solution to helping our son manage responsibility.
I’ll be honest, this last Monday, I was over it all. I was over turning on his light to get him moving. I was over tugging at his covers. I was over yelling from downstairs “Are you up yet?” until my throat hurts.
In some ways, this is a very “preteen” problem. I was the same way at 12. And I know I suspect I will be going through this same issue with my younger two girls in no time. But there is one thing I don’t always consider in these moments. Part of the reason I get so angry with him staying in bed so long on Mondays is because I have a difficult time with Mondays too. I tend to dread going into work on Monday, and it begins on Saturday too. Having my son drag his feet when I’m already irritated and struggling does not exactly set me up for good parenting.
And when I think about that, I don’t fully understand why I hold my son to a higher standard than myself. Sure, I’m supposed to be teaching him to get up and get going, even on Mondays. But naturally, he doesn’t want to get going anymore than I do at the first of the week. While he is my son, he is still human, and humans have hated Mondays since the standard workweek was invented. Only he hasn’t had a few decades of obligations to help him come to terms with the fact that staying in bed will not make Monday go away.
Sometimes as parents, it seems like the things we hate get exacerbated when our children are too much like us. We end up getting really irritated with our children, when what we need to be doing is understanding and even sympathizing. It’s not like we learned to handle the dread that comes each Monday easily. In fact, it can take years for some people to emotionally prepare themselves to start the week, and getting yelled at first thing in the morning isn’t going to help.
I’d love to say that I came to all of these conclusions myself, but naturally, I didn’t. I left Tristan’s room giving him two minutes, and as I did, my wife, Mel, cornered me in the hallway and said, “You suck at Mondays too. How about you cut the kids some slack.”
Then she went on telling me that he’s been dreading going to school all weekend. He’d even been a little depressed about it. And suddenly I was trying that age-old “toughen up” strategy with my son, when what he probably needed was someone to understand. And as wild as it sounds, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was overreacting, as parents sometimes do, particularly on a Monday morning.
So I went back into his room and said, “Listen, bud. You are going to have to figure out this Monday thing. But I’m going to tell you something. I hate Mondays, too. I’m not very good at them, and that’s probably why I get angry every Monday when you don’t get out of bed.”
He was quiet for a moment, still wrapped in his blanket. Then he said something I didn’t expect, “You hate Mondays, too?”
I laughed, and told him I did. I told him that a lot of people do, that’s it’s normal to dread going back to school or work or whatever, but you still have to get up in the morning. “Mondays never really go away. I’m sorry to have to tell you.”
He poked his head out from beneath the covers, his hair a mess, no shirt on. He didn’t say anything, but he twisted his lip to the side, let out a half moan, and then got out of bed. And I honestly think all he needed was to realize that Mondays do suck, that most people hate them, even his father, and this was life. And I remembered something that I already knew, but hadn’t done a very good job with: sometimes just showing a little empathy can go a long way in this parenting gig.