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Mr. Responsible Takes a Brief Sabbatical

Oh, the logistics. The reminders. The routine. Sometimes, the load becomes too heavy for a parent to bear. But then again, our kids are carrying quite a load as well. We might as well help each other out.

I get a text from Laurie asking me to set a nightly reminder on my phone for Jayden to put water in his C-PAP machine before bed, and for some reason this sets me off and I decide I’m taking a break from life. I’m not having an especially rotten or exhausting day, but when I open my calendar app and scroll through countless reminders, I think, That’s it! I’m done!

We have a busy house with four school-age kids, each one enrolled in sports, theater, choir, dance, cheer, and more. Also, each child has at least one daily medication. Then there are Laurie’s and my medications. Oh, and both dogs are on medication. I set each of these reminders on my phone to different songs, but now I associate my favorite songs with time for homework, time for bed, and time to pay the water bill. It’s kind of a buzz kill.

“I’m tired of keeping track of all of this,” I tell Laurie.

“You do a really good job keeping this family organized and on schedule,” she says. “You deserve every break you get. The kids are getting old enough now to be responsible and take care of their own business.”

The problem: This particular break impacted my son, who has sleep apnea. I go to wake him up every morning, and he’s a slug. “Why is it taking you a half hour to put a shirt on?” I call to him across the house.

“Sorry, Dad,” he says. Finally he stumbles downstairs, and starts looking for his backpack. He walks past me, and I get a whiff of 11-year-old boy.

[Free Resource: Boost Your Teen’s Executive Functions]

“Did you put on deodorant?” I ask.

He slumps his shoulders and groans. “No, I forgot. But I’ll remember tomorrow.

He honestly believes he’ll remember tomorrow, just like he honestly believes he’ll keep his room clean, brush his teeth, and stop wearing the same three outfits every day.

I wish I could say his daily grogginess eventually brought me to my senses and made me realize either he wasn’t old enough or just wasn’t ready to be responsible for keeping up with the sleep machine. But instead it was the notification I got on my phone for the follow-up appointment with the sleep clinic that finally made me think, Oh crap.

So I call the clinic and push the appointment back a few weeks. Then I set a reminder on my phone every night. Within just a few days, we notice a remarkable improvement in his mood. He even says, “I feel better in the mornings.” He starts remembering to fill the water tank before my timer goes off.

[Nudge, Don’t Nag: 9 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Do Well]

One morning, he gives me a hug and says, “Thanks for taking good care of me.”

“Well, there was that time I wasn’t on you about your sleep machine.”

“That’s ok,” he says. “I’m getting old enough to remember.”

I hug him a little tighter, and take comfort in knowing that, while he might not be as responsible as I am, at least he’s more patient.

[Become the Parent Your Child Needs]