Note: This column appears in the 2/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/18 issue of the Peoria Times
One of the things fatherhood has taught me is that sleep is overrated. Eight hours? Pfft. I have not slept eight consecutive hours since college (back then I called that a “nap”).
Sure, it’s frustrating to wake up every morning and be immediately reminded that this cycle of diminished sleep will not end for the foreseeable future, if ever. I combat this by lying to myself. On weekday mornings I think, “I will sleep-in this weekend.” On weekend mornings I think, “I will nap when she naps.” But on weekend afternoons, as she naps, I think, “Now I can finally take a shower.”
I’m not complaining though. There are positives. For starters, getting to sleep takes zero effort. There used to be a time when falling asleep wasn’t so easy. Now? I could fall asleep while waiting at a red light. And by “could” I mean “do.” Also, if the quality of one’s sleep is relative to the weirdness of his dreams, then I am getting the best sleep ever. The other night I had a dream that I was best friends with a hilarious dragon who urged me not to take myself too seriously. I was like, “Don’t worry, dragon—I don’t!’ Then my alarm went off. I miss him.
I feel a sense of pride in being able to function on less sleep than is clinically recommended by people much smarter than I. In fact, the men of our family have a long-standing, proud tradition of not sleeping. As a kid I used to believe that my dad was the first person up in America every morning. He was at work on his lunch break when we were getting up for school. Even now, when he comes to visit us here in AZ, he is always up at some ungodly hour, for which he will blame the “time difference,” even though he has been here for a week. One night last summer our dog got me up to go out at like, 3 a.m., and I walked downstairs and my dad had a pot of coffee brewing and was on his second “SportsCenter.”
My father-in-law does not sleep voluntarily. For him, sleep = not getting something done. As a result, if he stops moving for two minutes, he will simply fall asleep where he stands. This has been a constant source of hilarity for the rest of us. A few years ago he fell asleep on the couch during a Yankee game. He woke up suddenly hours after the game had finished, incoherently yelled something about Derek Jeter, then fell back asleep. When we were back east a couple months ago, we had to get him up super-early to drive us to the airport. My wife gently nudged him, whispering, “Pssst, Dad, time to get up.” He shot up quickly and yelled, “I’ll take the call!”
The common theme of these great men is fatherhood. Years of being conditioned to be up at a moment’s notice for any conceivable reason and spending all waking hours intently focused on work and/or another’s well-being has made sleep almost optional. And I am proud to follow in their weary footsteps.
That’s certainly not to say it’s just the men. My wife has probably slept less than I have over the past year or so, and she works, and she does more for our daughter in a tired stupor than I do wide awake. Plus I don’t even think she ever gets a good sleep, as her dreams are totally realistic and usually involve me doing something stupid, so she gets up exhausted and mad at me. I just remind her to not take myself too seriously.
... and another thing, Mike -- you should stop wearing overalls. What is this, 1990?