Fatimah Ali: The back-to-school blues

THIS IS the time of year that almost every parent (especially those with teenagers) loves - and their children hate.

It's back to school, when the long lazy days and endless star-speckled summer nights come to an abrupt halt.

In my house there are only two teens left, and both of them - a freshman and a junior - attend the same high school, which is blessedly convenient for the parents because it means only having to travel to one destination on Back to School Night later this month.

So here we are, just a week before classes start - and we're already at war.

The culprits to blame for this battle are the very same ones every year this time: bedtime, Facebook and room preparation.

My kids, like most, resent all of my rules, and they also hate the fact that, for the most part, I give teachers the benefit of the doubt if they complain to me about them.

I'm the mom who, if hauled into the principal's office to address some infraction by my kid, will usually take the teacher's side, unless said children can prove them wrong, with lots of evidence to back up their claims of injustice by the teacher.

MY USUAL stance is that teachers go into the profession because they really like children and want to make a positive difference in their lives, and not because of the money.

But kids being kids, mine prefer to believe that certain teachers are there just to make their lives miserable. Ludicrous.

I'm sure that I'm not alone when I say that most parents work all the hours they do to see that their children have all of their needs met.

And in return for that, we demand respect, to be able to think that we are in control of our children's freedom - as well as a good night's sleep.

But we really aren't in control of much more than our mouths and sometimes our pocketbooks.

Take, for instance, bedtime rules, which in our house only the parents seem to take at all seriously. We're both well into middle age (to our kids, we're just old), and we both need to be in bed by 11 in order to function reasonably well during the workweek.

But our teenagers seem to think that they don't need any sleep at all, or at least very little. How many mornings have I awakened at 5, only to find my two youngest daughters just going to bed after a night of movies, phone calls and Facebook.

And that's another thing I need to be in control of, but find to be a losing battle. Facebook!

Why is it that my children's friends don't mind "friending" me on Facebook, but my two youngest staunchly refused, until one day when I threatened to padlock the family computer?

I also have their passwords, which (until now) they didn't have a clue about. I guess that the older I get, the more like my mother I become. I really resented all of her rules and structure when I was a teen - but, true to form - I appreciate them now.

These days, I practically hear my mother's voice underneath mine, when the same words she used to yell at my sisters and me come out of my mouth. Just like she did, I insist that my girls clean their room in its entirety and completely organize their dresser drawers before they get any new clothes.

And I always fight with my daughters over what it really boils down to: Who has the power, them or me? Because the best way to turn a teen into a rebel is to try to tell them what to do. So, we give consequences. No clean room, no new clothes.

And though we didn't have Facebook, way back in the dark ages, the concept that my mom had about not watching television during the school week will also apply to the computer, unless it's for a homework assignment.

Down through the years, most teachers who I've spoken with agree with my back-to-school rules. Well-rested children are much more productive in the classroom.

And children shouldn't have TVs in their bedrooms because they're a major distraction. So, yeah, my kids will hate me again this year for sure, but there's always the hope they'll make up for their frustration with their uncool mom by bringing home some good grades. *

Fatimah Ali is a regular contributor to the Daily News, and blogs about food at healthysoutherncomforts.com.