Last weekend, Candace, Will and I visited my mother. And, while I was there, I realized I was very tired. Granted, I had not slept well the night before, but it suddenly occurred to me that I am often tired when I visit my mother. Then, on the way home, it also occurred to me that I often feel tired when Candace and I visit her father or mother. I brought this up to Candace. I asked her if she thought I had some kind of problem. “Have I developed a mental association with our parents…some self-imposed Pavlovian condition…is it my way of checking out around them?” Candace, defending me from myself, offered another perspective – “maybe you just relax when you visit our parents. You know, kind of like going back to your childhood home. You don’t have any obligations or chores like at home. You chill.”
Good, I thought. Then I realized that our eight month old son often seems tired. He certainly sleeps a lot – three solid naps a day and he snoozes through most of the night. He can barely keep his eyes open after two hours around us. Then I thought about all of the other parents that I know. And, you know what? Their babies sleep a lot, too. And when we get together with these parents all we talk about is how tired we are.
I am beginning to suspect that its not babies that make parents exhausted…its themselves. It is us.
If my supposition is true, parents are a sedative, even to themselves. We (or at least I) get sleepy around our parents, our children get sleepy around us, and we get sleepy around other parents. In fact, for the last eight months all I’ve talked about is how tired or not tired I am (usually the former). My daily condition is based on this. But, I’ve been eyeballing the wrong culprit. It is not Will. It is myself.
I wonder if babies were left to their own devices if they would stay up all day like a “normal” human being. Maybe that’s the way it should be. We let the babies hang-out and play with each other all day, while we parents hang-out with ourselves and breath in the sweet sedative that is us. Then we could all curl up on the floor, like in kindergarten (maybe they used to keep a stash of parents in the closet so we’d get tired at “nap-time”). It certainly would be nice to give into the red-eyed junky-demon that is exhaustion sometimes.
The more I think about it, the more this makes some kind of wicked sense. All of my older friends who suffer from insomnia either don’t have children or their children have grown up and moved on. Perhaps the sedative-effect only occurs while you are actually parenting.
You know, I could rent out parents to insomniacs. I could set up sleep clinics where those who suffer from sleep disorders are administered three or four parents a night until they can return to restful nights or sleep. Or I could even create a Parent Channel that features a line of parents jumping over a fence like sheep to help those who need a little assistance to drift off. Yeah, that’s it.
Besides, who likes warm milk anyway.
(Originally published on April 25th, 2005)