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Late-night Raptors games offer families bonding time, push bedtime rules

Raptors fan Kurt Peacock admits he's really pushing bedtime back as he lets his 11-year-old watch their beloved team make a championship bid this week. Aside from wanting him to witness history in the making, the Saint John, N.B.
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Raptors fan Kurt Peacock admits he's really pushing bedtime back as he lets his 11-year-old watch their beloved team make a championship bid this week.

Aside from wanting him to witness history in the making, the Saint John, N.B., dad considers it precious bonding time, as well as a chance to pass on his knowledge of the game.

"My son plays centre on his basketball team so I wanted to show him some tricks," Peacock recalls of one especially exhilarating Finals game between the Raptors and reigning champs the Golden State Warriors.

"There was a key play in which (centre) Marc Gasol was part of a pick-and-roll and I wanted to highlight it to my son. I looked over and he was fast asleep."

The grade-schooler pretty much crashes midway through every game, Peacock admits.

But that doesn't stop the boy from trying to stay awake for the next game — an especially tough mission for school kids on the East Coast where most games start at 10 p.m. and end well after midnight.

The Grade 5 student is normally expected to be in bed by 9 p.m., but Peacock has gladly made an exception for the NBA Finals.

"It really is like a Christmas Eve sort of scenario, it's a special occasion for sure," he says, noting Wednesday's Stanley Cup battle between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins — traditional favourites in New Brunswick — has barely registered.

"He and all his school friends are talking about the Raptors all the time. It's as if the NHL playoffs aren't even taking place."

The desire to stay up until the final buzzer is strong among many families with school-age kids, says southern Ontario dad Ryan Turvey, who eased the rules for his eight- and 11-year-old boys.

And so he and his graphic designer wife drafted a form letter that bleary-eyed children can give their teachers as explanation for any early morning sluggishness.

The letter made the rounds on social media following Game 5's nail-biter Monday night with the following tongue-in-cheek advice: "If they happen to fall asleep during class today, please try yelling, 'Let's Go Raptors!' as loud as you possibly can and they will wake up."

"We just thought we'd have a little fun with it and give the fans with young kids something to send to the teachers the next day to apologize if they were just a little sleepy," Turvey says from Keswick, Ont.

Game night strategy for the Turvey kids involves the usual bedtime routine, but instead of heading to bed at 8:30 p.m., the boys settle on the living room couch, with the younger one in a sleeping bag and duvet. Then it's lights out and game on.

Whether your kid can rebound quickly from the odd night of less sleep is up to each parent to decide, lifestyle and parenting expert Maureen Dennis said from Caledon, Ont.

She notes mid-June is an especially tough time of year to mess with schedules because many older kids are entering exam time, while the younger ones are likely antsy enough as they wait for their summer break.

"Bedtime can be a battle to begin with and then when you add something as exciting as a national sporting event final — something that hasn't happened in the entire Raptors history — I think you as a parent have to balance it out to say: 'Can my kid handle it?'" says Dennis, who has a 15-year-old son and three daughters, aged 13, 10 and 7.

Dennis eased bedtime rules for her 15-year-old, Aidan, because of his intense love of the game, but also because his alternate school schedule meant he didn't have a morning class to rush to the next day.

But aside from that, the Finals have offered more opportunities for the family to hang out, she says, acknowledging that may get more difficult as the kids get older.

Not that mom can contribute much to the couchbound play-by-play, adds Aidan Dennis: "My mom does not know the slightest thing about basketball," he says frankly.

Maureen Dennis readily agrees.

"I kept calling Kawhi Leonard 'the little guy,'" she laughs. "And (Aidan) is like, 'He's (about) 6'8" mom! What are you talking about?'"

Still, Aidan does appreciate his mom's effort, and the fact "she's actually interested and wants to learn. Before I thought she just didn't really care."

Dennis says its worth it for parents to try to understand their kids' passions, even if it means breaking the rules for a few nights.

"We as a family aren't huge sports fans, but he is, so it's important to share that experience with him," says Dennis.

"Sometimes it's really, really important and means so much to your kid to appreciate something that means so much to them. I'm not a basketball fan but we sat there with our 'We the North' shirts on to the last second."

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press




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