The son, 14, has been keeping teen hours. Milo wakes, with my help operating the overhead light and sometimes a bit of very loud oompah music, about three in the afternoon. Lingers before making a bowl of cereal. Asks for help with a “breakfast sandwich” about five. By the time we eat dinner at seven, he’s on his Playstation hanging out with friends.
I guess that session lasts until sunrise.
This has been going on since March.
We tried pushing for normal hours. It wasn’t worth the fight. Several times each week we break the pattern and get him out of the house for a field trip. This usually works better on weekends. He complains about having insomnia, like his mother and, if something’s on my mind, me.
The other night I couldn’t sleep. I went downstairs for a glass of milk, and tried to watch our streaming television. When I had problem making a connection, I reset the Internet.
Both Fawn and I enjoy hanging with our boy in the wee hours. The talks we have are like those on long trips, or when we’re operating without screen time overseas. The young man’s smart, sensitive, observant, and a good conversationalist.
I can hear my mother chiding me about not forcing him to keep a regular bedtime. I can vaguely remember myself sleeping until all hours back when I was his age, staying out all night to smoke cigarettes and drink instant coffee when at boarding school. Priding myself on how often I’d catch the sunrise when in college, or later in New York City as a young man.
The first piece I ever published, “Sanded Men,” was about learning insomnia from my father as a teen.
I brought this up the other day with Milo and his buddies while we were all hanging out in the kitchen. The gang was going to head up to the Empire State Plaza for the night, where they like the way the city looks at night … and just hanging with each other. They’re all on first-name basis with the state police who patrol the site.
The kids all said they could get up when they had to. Study when expected to. But then they noted their chief lesson from their years as Free Schoolers.
“Everything has its time,” one of the kids said in a suddenly deepening voice. “We’re still kids now.”
Seemed right to me. For now.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.