When I was a kid, I never wanted to go to bed. That’s a common kid thing. My daughter is like that now. She will fight against the concept, push back the time, and scroll her phone until she’s told that it’s an absolute must. As a general rule, kids don’t sleep much.
It’s a struggle. There’s nothing harder to do than to get a child to hit the hay when it’s hay-hitting time. My son will get up and flick on his lights like he runs the joint. He bounces his little body out of bed, gallops to the wall, and just hits the light. It’s like one in the morning.
Lucas, what are you doing? It’s one in the morning. Go back to bed.
As I sway down the hallway, I turn the light off, turn to leave, and hear the “click.” It’s back on and he’s awake out of protest.
I can’t even fathom this train of thought anymore because, as an adult, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t want to go to bed. Even if I can’t fall asleep right away, which is rare nowadays, I still gladly rush to my covers. One day, I just became exhausted.
Even as my day progresses, the tired looms in the background like elevator music of my weary life. It doesn’t matter what my current activity is. I can be doing the exercise bike, shopping at the store, or getting a tattoo on my eyeball. If someone gave me a pillow and told me to take some “me time”, I’d be out like a freaking light.
It literally takes me four or five days to watch a single episode of some television shows. When there finally comes a time when I’m free of parenting, work, or any other obligations, I get myself comfortable for what I promise myself will be a relaxing time. There is usually a blanket involved and reclined feet. I spend a solid ten minutes finding the perfect program on a streaming service and settle back.
And fall asleep.
Inevitably (and hopefully), I wake up and realize I must have dozed off. Most times, it feels like I’ve been asleep for years.
Luckily it’s a new age and, through the magic of streaming, you’re able to rewind your show to see what you missed. That’s when I learn that my “year-long” sleep was actually 22 seconds. It messes with my head.
Even worse – when I rewind those 22 seconds, I promptly fall asleep again. This happens five or six times before the final doze that sees me pass out for four full episodes before gather my belongings and walk-crawling up the stairs to bed.
The worst time for this to happen is when my twelve-year-old daughter has me watch a television shows she likes. I try. God help me, I try. But it takes nothing at all to start losing time. I put my head down and open my eyes again, but it feels like hours have gone by. Sometimes I open my eyes up to her glaring me in the eyes and loudly clapping her hands in my face.
I’m not sleeping. I saw everything. That guy did the thing before to the other guy.
She turns her head, disgusted by my attempt to dance around my consequences. As luck would have it, she would get to experience this over and over again until I eventually have to fess up.
I’m sorry. I’m tired. I’m old. I’m trying.
That always feels great to say out loud.
I wish I knew what it was. It’s not like I’m working in the salt mines or practicing for a world-class powerlifting championship. Truth be told, it’s everything. It’s the physical toll that life has taken mixed with the emotional and the spiritual and mental and every other toll you can think of. I’m all toll’d up.
There have been times when I equate that feeling to importance. As a grown up, I have certain things that need to be done and I do them. So my sleepiness is like a badge of honor. It’s that constant sense of responsibility that makes sleep such a welcome thing. The passing of time alone has cured me of 90% of my insomnia.
In my honest opinion, it all boils down to one event. It was the first time I was woken up from a dead sleep to care for a screaming baby. I had no choice. I couldn’t cover my face with a pillow, wave my arms, and scream, “Nyah! Go away or I call the police!”
No, I had to get up, go in that room, and do whatever it required. There was no time limit attached to it or even an expectation of ever accomplishing the rock-a-bye baby goal. I could have been in there for decades. For all I know, I could still be in that room today with a beard to my feet and a crying adolescent. I had no idea going in.
Yet, I did it anyway. I pushed past my own exhaustion one early morning in 2008. I shut out the sleep and did my duty.
And I haven’t caught up since.
Every sleep interrupted or pushed back because of something pressing is another notch on my sleep deficit. It’s why I start the pilot episode of a TV show, put my head down, and open my eyes to find the main character dead and the credits rolling. That was fun.
Daddy’s exhausted. You would be too. In fact, you probably are. Tell the truth. If I gave you a pillow right now, you’d stop reading this and call it a day. I would. That sounds amazing.