Pit Crew


It’s 6 a.m. My last kid at home, a high school senior, told me before she went to bed some time way too long after midnight that she wanted to get up and study for her (insert subject du jour) test over breakfast. I’m in support of this because she stays up way too late studying, procrastinating, acting all ADHD and OCD, spinning in tight circles and carrying on about the work she should be doing, checking her Snapchat streaks, and scrolling through texts on her phone, anything but the task at hand.  Our argument is the same every night. I say stop procrastinating and finish your work because your brain needs sleep. She says okay and then does what she wants anyway which is basically the opposite. (My mother says I used to do that all the time as a kid, so, karma?)  I’d rather she get up too early than go to bed too late so I give her a gentle shove in that direction.

I don’t think it’s intentional,  but everything takes her twice as long as it should. Simple things like putting away her clothes become a monumental event with all the distractions. A shower can take over an hour, the water running and running (a sustainability nightmare!). I try a laissez-faire approach on the pile of clean laundry on the bed, waiting to be folded. The pile grows and by the end of a week, I finally give up and fold it myself. If I don’t, she sleeps under the pile as if it wasn’t there.

Her time management skills are, shall we say, in development. Was I like that, too? I don’t remember. My mother had rules, lots of them, and chores had to get done before anything else. I was a little more lax with my kids. Perhaps I encouraged them to spend more time at being creative since I felt I hadn’t had enough of it.  Apparently, she took it a bit too literally.  Still, no one plans not to get enough sleep and that’s really the thing I care about most.

She’s currently studying sleep patterns and circadian rhythms in Psychology — all about how lost hours of sleep deprive a growing brain of something critical, how protein chains misfire, how the eyes are the last to heal after a long day of using them, and how sleep is crucial to all of it.  Maybe she’ll get it now?  She fell asleep super early one night, got up at 2 a.m., studied a bit, went back to sleep until 6 a.m., following her own circadian rhythms, a tough thing to do in a 24/7 society, but a good start in listening to what your body needs. I tell her how Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most brilliant minds of the last 2,000 years slept 8 hours of day, but only for 4 hours at a time (and look what he produced!).  I worry about how we as a society are failing ourselves and our kids by not insisting on rest, how we talk, almost to the point of bragging, about how little sleep we get.

Rather than lead by example, I wake up early in an act of solidarity because she’s terrible at getting up on her own, and even though my brain is craving its own communion with my Higher Self, I go where I am needed. I make her eggs, brew her tea to take to school, pack her lunch, make sure she takes vitamins, cater to her like a visiting dignitary. My oldest was so self-sufficient by sixth grade that I rarely packed her lunch. Same with my methodic, second child who got up half an hour early so he could eat a leisurely breakfast, pack his lunch and take a 20-minute nap before school. But this one, no way. My husband says I need to pull back, let her figure it out, but as we round the corner of her last year at home and what will inevitably be an empty nest for us (if you don’t count the four-legged kids), I could no more stand by than I could miss senior graduation.

I don’t think we ever lose the desire to have someone care for us, no matter how self-sufficient we become. I remember way back in first grade, sitting at mass, or maybe it was an assembly. St Francis elementary school was building a new church and it took awhile to raise the funds so for a time, mass was held in the cafeteria/social hall which doubled (tripled?) as a church. The day before Christmas break we were sitting in the social hall and a noise behind me drew my gaze. I saw someone walking past the doorway, carrying bags, and a thrill ran through my body. In that instant, I knew we’d go back to our classrooms and find a special Christmas treat on our desks. When the assembly was over we returned to find a candy cane-shaped mesh bag full of sweets. To a first grader, this was magical, like Santa himself had come for a visit. Secret acts of caring. I indulge the memory and it restores my faith.

Top line drivers don’t get there alone. They need their pit crew, waiting on the sidelines, ready to deal with any emergency, and even though we have one that’s made it through college and one halfway through that process, there are still emergencies. The time I spend in support of my kids is paramount to almost anything I’ll ever do with my life, although competing interests sometimes threaten to knock us out of the race. My understanding of all of this is palpable, and I never regret my chosen role, in fact, I relish it.

Now if I can just stay awake until the race is over.

pjlazos 12.9.17

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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33 Responses to Pit Crew

  1. I just found you as you visited my site — Nice blog!
    Regarding sleep patterns, I found during architectural school I had a good sleep pattern that allowed me to exist on little sleep if need be and be creative and productive. I slept between 2-4 (am and pm) and that did it. Even as an adult running a business, I find myself waking at about 4am with all these great ideas and great energy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, this makes me wonder what my own kids will be in the next ten years…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. kedawithani says:

    Oh boy…this sounds exactly like me…☺

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We’re so in the same boat, though mine’s 10 1/2. I’ve been pulling my hair out by the roots, back and forth on this question of where he “should” be in the many areas of development and what he should be allowed not to be. I’ve been hearing a lot of the same counsel, to pull back to enable him to pull (himself) up to shore. This parenting thing’s the toughest thing in the universe. And I know all about the competing interests and what we lay down, that they may stand on our shoulder. Through it all, I hope you both get some more sleep!

    Liked by 3 people

    • pjlazos says:

      Hi Diana! Your comment made me laugh because you are so in the thick of it. My daughter came out this way, totally invested in the idea that the world revolves around her schedule and her mother is there to put this schedule into action. And I’ve been doing it for 17 years! It’s funny this parent-sponsored independence, but I relish my role (when I’m not yelling at her, that is). My good sleep will come, probably when she leaves for college. For now, like you, I’ll just continue to pull my own hair out. 😘


  5. Rowena says:

    Hi Pam,
    Thank so much for popping round to my blog because I really feel like I was meant to read this. My son is 13 and my daughter is 11 and finished Primary School today and starts high school next year. We live in Australia so our school system is no doubt different, but kids seem to be much the same the world over.
    Our situation is complicated by my chronic health condition, which basically means I run on a smaller engine and run out of steam more easily. Rather than my kids thinking they should do more, I often end up waiting on them in ways where they should be more independent. At the same time, doing things for them helps them feel loved and teenagers can need a lot of that at times.
    My daughter’s year book came out this week and they asked who her hero is. She said Mum because she helps me even when she is really sick. I immediately saw two sides to that. Yes, it was great to be appreciated, but at the same time, it also meant she saw how sick I was and didn’t think she should be reducing my workload. Yet, being 11, I guess you can’t expect too much insight.
    Time management is something we all struggle with here. I end up napping during the day and then staying up too late, but quite often I simply run out of energy during the day. I also realized a few years ago that I was treating time as an elastic resource, when it’s actually fixed and finite. I used to set my watch 5 minutes fast and I’m still robbing my sleep bank to get more done. What I found helped me, was a clock called a time timer. It is a visual clock. It is used for people on the autism spectrum but I reckon many of us could use it. It has a red shading to show how much time is left. So, you can just glance at and know. It makes it harder for you to lie to yourself. Here’s the link: https://suelarkey.com.au/product/time-timer-20cm-large/
    Take care & best wishes,

    Liked by 3 people

    • pjlazos says:

      Hi Rowena! Well, if you are struggling health-wise, it doesn’t come through in your writing. I wouldn’t worry too much about being “sick” around the kids. Kids know, whether you tell them or not. My husband actually struggles with the same thing. He has MS and was diagnosed about seven years ago. My youngest is 17. It’s been a gradual progression, but lately he needs a walker to get around. Contrast that with our previous life with the kids — hiking, biking, boating (we sold the boat this year, sadly), zip-lining (we had installed one in our backyard after doing a canopy tour in Costa Rica), pulling saucers in the snow with the 4-wheeler on the farm behind our house until we laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe, and on and on the very physical activities went. The kids grew up with that and then suddenly, we couldn’t do much of it any more. After the initial angst, they all became okay with it. I know they miss our physical lifestyle, we all do, and sometimes it’s absolutely heart-breaking to think about it, but wow, we made some good memories. Compared to other families, we were pretty extreme in how we experienced life. If we had to trade out all we did for a more sedate and steady existence and never any illness I doubt any of us would have made that trade, especially my husband.

      My own mother who had two auto-immune diseases, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis. She died a few years ago (and I miss her every day), but that woman pushed herself all the way to 81. She’d had the disease for 31 years. She was in pain probably every day, but dealt with it (advil was her best friend) and still managed to live a nice life, never needing a wheelchair or much other assistance as many with either of those diseases do. We tried every alternative therapy out there (so if you haven’t, maybe you want to check some things out like acupuncture or NAET) and I swear it kept her alive longer than anything. Were we limited in what we could do with my mom, of course. But she loved movies and going out to lunch and she loved babysitting (and she folded clothes every single time she sat, bless her heart!), and she was happy to just be part of things. I miss her wisdom and counsel more than I could ever express and I was just happy to have her in my kids’ lives, no matter the condition. So don’t stress it, strong woman. Your kids will take you however they can get you, and all the more because they know how important they are to you and you to them. The heart knows what’s important and most of life it just fluff. Sending you love and best wishes across oceans. oxo

      p.s. will check out the clock. I am a terrible time manager myself, always wanting to do “just one more thing.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        So glad to have met you. I wonder if we were attracted to each others’ writing and stories because there was this underlying connection and understanding. I know my sense of humour has definitely taken off since I’ve been going through this. I used to much more sensitive and fragile. Now, I’m almost unbreakable.
        Has your husband tried any adaptive sports? Here in Australia, we have the Disabled Winter Sports Association and I joined them and received a discount off my ski instructor and they can also help out with additional equipment and you can go in a sit chair. We also have a group called Sailability where they take disabled people sailing. I was going to try out disabled surfers recently but was busy that day. I went surfing a few years ago and loved it. Couldn’t sit or stand but that didn’t matter.
        I’m encouraged by how long your Mum lived with schleraderma. That’s a nasty one. I am convinced that my kids are keeping me going what with trying to keep up with them physically etc. My mobility is generally fairly good and my lungs are my weakest link. I might look into acupuncture next winter to prevent chest infections. I understand it improves your general health.
        Anyway, time has completely escaped from me again and I’d better get to bed.
        Best wishes,

        Liked by 2 people

      • pjlazos says:

        Yes, I believe you connect to people when you need to find them. There’s this magnetic resonance about the universe and if you have a positive outlook you can draw people in.
        I have never heard of this disability sports thing, but need to check it out. The other day it snowed and my husband was doing donuts with his electric wheelchair. It was pretty funny. He could use more of that. Thanks for the info. I’ll follow up.😘

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        The disability sport thing is quite interesting, particularly for people like your husband and I who seemingly get struck out of nowhere and have no connection or identification with being disabled. I never considered that a person in a wheelchair could be a sporty person, but they’re in a body which doesn’t cooperate with how they see themselves. I am a member of muscular dystrophy NSW and have danced with young people in electric wheelchairs. Our motto is “find a way”. Another friend of mine with very limited mobility plays wheelchair soccor and boccia is really popular. My kids told me I could go to the paralypics because I’m disabled but I’m not sporty. I would need to go to the word olympics instead. Have you heard of Australian paralympian Krt Fearnley? He’s a real inspiration. I’ve read his book and heard him speak. Here’s a link to a brief talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpgX_UK62Io
        How is the weather your way? It’s so hot here. I live an hour north of Sydney right near the beach. It;s stinking hot at the moment and we’re huddled inside. We go for a walk later in the day. Hope you’re having a great day, xx Rowena

        Liked by 1 person

      • pjlazos says:

        I love all this and thanks for the links. And it’s cold here! Snowed over the weekend although today the temperature got up to 45F so the ❄️ all melted.⛄️😩


  6. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written post! You sound like a wonderful mother, and I had forgotten those lovely little red mesh stockings — a staple of my elementary school celebrations. They brought such joy, didn’t they? Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 3 people

    • pjlazos says:

      Hi Victoria! Yes, they did bring joy, even today! It seems so silly that such a little thing could thrill you so much, make you feel so cherished. You have a Merry Christmas as well. Enjoy your time with family and friends and I will look forward to reading about your Christmas tea! :0)


  7. My daughter left for college this year. Her last year at home sounds a lot like your daughter’s. But then she was ready to leave and to make her own mistakes. Happily, she seems to be doing okay with time management in college. She’s getting more sleep than I did, she’s not completely overwhelmed by her coursework and sounds as if she’s doing okay in most of her classes. I think sometimes we expect them to grow up so fast, but some of them just need a little more time!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. What a cool post, Pam! I so enjoyed it, and it made me remember when my girls were teens, etc. You are a wonderful mother and I’m sure all of your kids will get through with flying colors! I liked the part about karma, boy I’ve experienced that too being a mother. Somehow when you do the good parent work that you are doing they get through the tunnel of growing up just fine and end up surprising you in the process.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. MariHoward says:

    Ha ha! This is wonderful – it is our youngest (though she is the second of twins … youngest by 1/2 hour) … so remember it all … She’s now a mom and still somewhat the same … Do any of us really change?!! Bright, creative, and oh so ADHD-ish … and I see more of her in me every day …

    Liked by 5 people

  10. hilarymb says:

    Hi PJ – not having kids even I can relate … but thankfully that wasn’t one of my problems re getting up – but appreciate all your logic in helping out and being the cheerleader on the side lines – a clean and tidy space is always helpful … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Sandra says:

    Like many Mom’s like you, I continuously harped on getting things done and often worried that it was left unheard. It’s only when they were living on their own that I discovered that in fact I was heard and that much of my instructions, education and advice was being followed. So don’t get discouraged my amazing cousin. Xx

    Liked by 7 people

  12. Sounds to me like she’s just being a teenager. My son, who is 14, is pretty much always agreeable. I can tell him to put his laundry away and he’ll say “sure”…..five or six times, each time acting like it’s the first time I mentioned it. And yes, I get up and make lunch everyday while his mother negotiates what he wants for breakfast.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. I really like the sleep feature on my Fitbit. It’s not that I planned on not getting enough sleep… It’s that I really didn’t have any idea how much I was bouncing around thinking five more minutes, or just how far off my schedule I was at both ends.

    Liked by 8 people

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