The plan for our first day of vacation was to drop V off at day care, luxuriate in the quiet for a few hours, have lunch and see a movie. We got through most of that plan, but after lunch, Odie and I looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, “Nap?” So, instead of a visit to the cinema, we visited The Sandman. For THREE GLORIOUS HOURS. I doubt any movie could possibly be that satisfying.
Sometimes, when V is rolling around on the bed, sticking her tongue out at me playfully, and kicking her feet instead of drifting off to sleep, I tell her, “One day, my dear, you will look back on this in a way that you cannot grasp now and ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I sleep when I had the chance???’ Because as you grow older, you find that sleep is a precious thing that we lose a little bit more of year by year.” I don’t really say that. It’s more like, “PLEASE, for the love of all that is holy, GO TO SLEEP!” If you don’t believe that sleep is a most precious natural resource, watch TV for an afternoon. The number of commercials for mattresses, pills, and exercise gadgets all aimed at improving your sleep is astonishing. Ambien is among the most commonly abused prescription drugs, according to my completely unscientific research, and I don’t think it’s just for the sleep-eating or the sleep-driving. People want sleep! They are sleep deprived and they’ll do almost anything to get it!
Young people, in all of their youthful ignorance, fight sleep. My students are notoriously underslept. With the advanced students, it’s mostly because they procrastinate their schoolwork and stay up until three a.m. doing it, or they have so MUCH work that it takes them from three p.m. to three a.m. to get it all done. And why not? They can always sleep in class (and they most assuredly do). With my, er, um, NON-AP students (aka “the regulars”), they don’t sleep at night because nobody makes them. They certainly aren’t up doing homework. Some of them sleep so deeply in class that even a vigorous shaking of the desk or an insistent tapping of a pencil near the eardrum will not even slightly rouse them. In a way, they are like toddlers. They go and go and go until they just pass out where they sit.
On mornings when I have been up most of the night with a restless or sick baby, out of bed since four or five, and yet still at work on time with my lessons planned and a fake smile pinned firmly to my face, and I look out to see four or ten heads flat on desks, I admit I feel just a teeny bit furious. They think they will miss all of the fun if they go to sleep. That life will somehow rush by them between ten at night and six in the morning and they will have irretrievably MISSED IT ALL! Little do they know, it’s SLEEP that is passing them by. And oh, how they’ll miss it someday.
I sure do. When you’re pregnant with your first child, people who already have kids get this wicked gleam in their eyes and tell you, “Sleep while you can, because once the baby comes, that’s over.” I try really hard not to do this to new parents-to-be. There’s something about that devilish curl of the lip that says, “Soon, you too will know joylessness like I know joylessness, and somehow, the knowledge of YOUR suffering pleases me.” They don’t need me to begrudge them their wide-eyed innocence. They’ll find out soon enough how sleepless parenthood is, and I don’t think they’ll say, “Why didn’t anyone warn us about this in a totally condescending way?!”
Because there will also be three-hour naps, for the lucky among us. And God (or maybe Starbucks?) made coffee, too. And children, who despite their sleep thievery make the groggy days of our lives worth staying awake for.