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The other day I’m on the phone with a friend and we swap high school parenting stories. It goes like this:


Friend: The moment high school ends Ethan goes to cross country practice. He gets home at 5pm. Then I drive him to hip hop class. We get home by 7.30pm. Then he has to have dinner and do homework until at least 11pm. We’ve been doing this for the last eight months. I keep thinking, this is crazy.

Me: That reminds me of Jacob’s schedule during basketball season. He had either a practice or game 5 nights of the week. He’s also been doing homework until 11am.


Then my friend drops a red flag.


Friend: Ethan says he’s not hungry lately. How can a six foot two inch boy not be hungry?

Me: Did you take him to the doctor? Maybe it’s mono.

Friend: He tested negative for mono. But something has got to be wrong. He’s been doing piano forever and last night he said he looked at the music sheet while his teacher was sitting there with him and he couldn’t make sense out of any of it.  What’s up with that?


I’m a problem-solver. So the moment I hung up the phone my mind went to work on what could be wrong.  That’s when I remembered the conversation I had with a mom on the soccer field last weekend. It went like this:


Me: Your daughter has one more year until college, right?

Soccer Mom: Yes.

Me: Where is she thinking of going to college?

Soccer Mom: To be honest I’m thinking of having her stay home for the year. She has been working nonstop for nearly three years in high school. Every minute of her life is scheduled. Homework takes 3-4 hours every night. I’m worried about her.  She’s not eating. I was thinking she could take off a year and just stay home and we’d cook together and be able to finally have a conversation. She’s in desperate need of rest.


That’s when I knew I had solved Ethan’s malaise: exhaustion.

I’m concerned. No, I’m off-the-charts panicked. Are we teaching our children our bad habits? Is our cultural exhaustion and overwhelm being passed down to our children?

Don’t tell me it’s parental over-scheduling.

How about the way we educate our kids? It’s unrealistic to expect kids to go to school for six hours and then do 3-4 hours of homework.  Is there anyone out there doing the math on this?

It’s not just education, of course. This is a cultural dis-function that feeds into a bigger issue of how we as parents live our lives. How we de-value rest for ourselves. How we put babies to sleep, so they feel rested, but we tell older children to push through busy days without breakdowns.

And we push ourselves to exhaustion which speaks to the disrhythmic nature of our society, one that emphasizes “doing” 24-7 instead of rest, rhythm and resonance in daily life. 

Developing a sensitivity to staying in rhythm is an essential foundation for a peaceful world.

Ironically many smart kids can write a great essay on creating a peaceful world, but are we really allowing them to live peace in their inner lives?

And it’s not just high school students who are exhausted. Last week while sitting in my girlfriend’s home office her 6 year old asked me about my job. Then she says:

“I have a lot of homework every day. I think I’m busier than you.”

A 6 year old who feels busy?

Is constant “doing” what we really want to teach our children?

I vote no.

I’ve been grouchy lately on this issue because I fear my high school son is our culture’s next victim.  This semester he had one of the leads in the high school play. The moment he got the part I gave him a fist bumped and then began to feel heart palpitations.  How does anyone do 3 hours of homework every night and learn five acts of Shakespeare?

To me, awareness of our children’s exhaustion – and by extension our exhaustion - is the next monumental issue we must face as parents.

Everyday I ask myself: how can I model being good to myself? How can I balance the doing with non-doing in my life and our family’s life? How can I encourage my children at any age to rest in a culture of busy?

I don’t have all the answers, that’s for sure.

The first step I’m taking is for me to get more rest (with my secret power nap: yoga nidra meditation!).

My hope is that when our kids see us resting, they might just lay down too.


Karen Brody is the founder of Bold Tranquility, a yoga nidra meditation company helping people be good to themselves. She is also the playwright of the critically acclaimed play Birth and founder of the BOLD Method for Birth, called “a powerful and poetic union of women’s empowerment and childbirth education.”