A summer day with my “perfect” teenager

7:30 a.m.  My 16-year-old son wakes up on a beautiful summer morning after 9 hours of sleep. He’s singing in the shower, a sign that he has had enough sleep.

8:00 a.m.  He sets out a tasty breakfast of cereal, low fat milk and whole wheat toast.   He’s also taking his calcium with vitamin D pill. He’s even cleaning up his dishes. Wait! Is it my birthday?  No.  That was last week.

8:30 a.m. Headphones on (he heard me when I explained to him about noise-induced hearing loss and why he should ditch the ear buds), iPod on his favorite music, and he’s off!  He’s headed to his volunteer job at the children’s hospital. He loves volunteering.  Not only does he feel more positive about himself since he started volunteering, but I also noticed he’s doing better in school. No complaints here! 

8:49 a.m. He’s stopping to answer a text message from his friend.  That’s a good idea, since texting while walking makes him four times more likely to cross unsafely.

9:00 a.m. He loves playing with the children at the hospital, acting goofy and making them laugh. He’s a natural! Finding something that he’s good at makes him feel good about himself and gives him confidence.

3:40 p.m.  He’s meeting up with his friend, who is an athlete and on the debate team – talk about positive peer pressure!   

5:00 p.m. My son and his friend are going to the high school track together.  They’ll do 40 minutes of running and 20 minutes of strength training: push-ups, sit-ups and jump rope.

7:00 p.m.  Time for dinner! We try and have a family meal at least once a day.  We don’t just eat (and eat—after all, he’s a teenager!), but we also talk. Tonight we’re talking about why it’s better for teens to wait until they’re older to have sex. He seems to be listening. Then, out of the blue, my teenage son thanks me for giving him the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) . He said he just learned about HPV in health class: that it is the most common STD and that young people have the highest rates of infection. He heard that the vaccine can help prevent genital warts and HPV-associated cancers.

8:45 p.m. He’s riding his bike (helmet on!) to the park and passes right by a house where kids from his school are drinking alcohol. He knows that some of these kids started drinking before they were even 15 and that they’re at risk for becoming alcoholics.  He sees them get into a car, upset that the person driving the car has been drinking.

8:55 p.m. A fireworks show is about to begin. Coincidentally, at last night’s family dinner we were just talking about the risks of consumer fireworks: devastating burns, loss of arms and legs, fires and death. And now a fireworks show put on by trained professionals—the perfect end to a perfect day! 

6 a.m. My alarm goes off. “Not yet, please … I’m having the perfect dream!” And then I remember, “I don’t have to go to work today – it’s July 4th!” 

Have a healthy and safe Fourth of July!

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