Awakened from a sound sleep the other night, I quickly became aware of a voice in my house. Although hushed, I could hear the urgency, and soon sensed my familiarity. No great cause for alarm, it was the voice of my teenage son. “It’s almost midnight,” I thought, “what’s he doing up, and who is he talking to?” Yes, like most kids his age, my son has a cell-phone, and then there are the computer chat options, and for this late night social session, he was using both his phone and computer. I noted some distress in my son’s voice, and could hear girl’s voices and giggles as well.
Choosing not to stomp out of my room and intervene, and with my wife now awake in bed next to me, we listened to whatever snippets of conversation drifted our way, whispering to one another about what we were hearing, and considering what we should do about being woken up by our son’s ill-timed social interaction.
After nearly an hour that included an irate call to our home phone from the mother of one of the participants in this version of a teen conference call, our son hung up and headed back to his bed. “You woke us up,” we called out to him, “We’ll talk about this in the morning,” we added before trying to get back to sleep.
And we did talk about it, gaining our son’s assurance that he understood the problem with waking us up, keeping others awake, and how staying up so late could impact his health, and his grades. We also made sure that he called and apologized to the mother of his friend who had phoned in distress about her own son’s involvement with this late night, on-line and phone line gathering.
I recognize well that this will not be the first time that my son’s social life will keep me up at night. Many parents have recounted the loss of sleep when their teens are out late, and how they find it impossible to sleep soundly, if at all, until their children are home safely. When our son begins going out late, we intend to assure him he can call us any time, especially in an uncomfortable situation, or one when he may need a ride home, at any hour. The deep fear of being awakened by the call that something terrible has happened is a reality we hope to never know or experience, and we will do all we can to try and prevent it, even if that’s not always possible.
For the past three years that I’ve been primary caregiver to my own father, I have also been awakened from sleep. In the age of CALLER ID, the ringing phone tells the origin of the call – my father’s retirement home or the local hospital – and I wake up quickly and go into action: What’s the nature of the situation? How serious is it? What do I need to do for my father or on his behalf?
Those late night calls have been infrequent, but as my father ages and his health declines, I know to expect more late night notification of his condition, especially when it becomes emergent.
And as my son navigates his teenage years, I know there’ll be times when he wakes me up, or I stay up late, wondering about his well-being, wishing he’d call to say where he is and how he is doing, and dreading a call that something has gone very wrong.
These wake up calls are to be expected, and they can be a blessing or distressing, but they are necessary. I am keeping an open mind, and an open line, sleeping with one eye open, on the clock and the CALLER ID, awaiting the news about my dad and my kid.
…and that’s the full-circle fatherhood report for this week.