My son started all-day Kindergarten on the 4th of this month. All of the sudden, he’s gone from 8:20 AM to 4:10 PM. Eight glorious hours of time alone with my wife. Time that I can spend writing for money, writing for fun, writing on my blog, or maybe even doing something that isn’t writing.
On the weird side, after about 15 years of waking up sometime between 9am and noon, I’m suddenly obligated to wake up at 6:45 AM every day. That’s because I refuse to let my son eat cereal before he goes to school in the morning, for two reasons. First, they feed him plenty of high-carb sugar-rush style food at school, and he needs something to stabilize himself before he leaves, and second, because breakfast cereal isn’t really food, per se.
So I wake up at quarter to seven, now, so that I have time to cook a full dinner-style meal for breakfast. Honestly, we’ve been doing the dinner-for-breakfast thing for years, so that’s not weird. I just remember growing up in the foothills of the Olympic National Park, I used to get up with 15 minutes to get to the bus. I’d plow down some Golden Grahams, slip on my coat, pee on a tree on the way to the bus stop (that’s the kind of luxury you have when your nearest neighbor is a mile of dense forest away), and make the bus 97.5% of the time.
My son, however, wakes up at least 45 minutes before the bus arrives — and whereas I had to walk about 1/2 mile to get to the bus stop (uphill both ways, children), he walks about 150 feet. So he spends his morning leisurely watching the best show ever put on television and either eating or getting force-fed his daily dose of Orange Chicken or Antipasto Stew or Turkey-Broccoli Casserole or “Breakfast” (which in our house specifically refers to bacon, hash browns, and omelet with a grapefruit on the side) or whatever-have-you.
Honestly, the getting up early is a small price to pay for the pleasure of 8 hours of uninterrupted time to work on work, or housework, or wifework, or what have you. My wife is a certified night owl. I would say I am too, except that after two weeks of this, I’m well and ready for bed at 10PM like clockwork — she, not so much. But we’ve managed to average at least six hours every night, and I’m wheedling that average upward slowly.
The best part of the whole schebang is that my son comes home from school pretty much mentally tired. He may want to do a little roughhousing, but he’s mostly happy to eat dinner, relax for a while with some Capsela (remember Capsela? Yeah, we found some, and it’s awesome), and crash out by 8PM.
It’s so freaking weird being on the other side of the whole ‘school night’ phenomenon. But anyway.
By the end of the school week, he’s pretty much ready for a movie, a snack, and bed — but therein lies the rub. Friday after school, he has soccer practice. And his games are the morning after at 9:30 am, halfway across town. So we have to be out of the house by 8:30 — almost like we were getting on the school bus — so suddenly Saturday is a ‘school day’ too. And then on Sunday, church starts at 9, so we only get to ‘sleep in’ an extra 40 minutes compared to the other 6 days. So getting to bed early and like clockwork is even more vital, because there’s no days to ‘catch up’.
On the plus side, he loves soccer with an undying passion. He now, every time we walk out to the car to go shopping or whatever, takes his soccer ball with him and practices dribbling down the sidewalk.
How does all of this relate to my quest for excellent fatherhood? Well, I kind of had a breakdown and started acting like a yelly, snappy snapdragon again around the first Friday after school started — and I realized that it was because we weren’t sleeping.
It doesn’t help that this whole last month or so, I’ve had this weird itchy spot on my back that won’t ever stop itching and itches so badly that I can’t get to sleep at night. Or that I’m having some weird, seemingly-unrelated nerve problem wherein my left hip and knee are super-sensitive to light touches — so much so that the sheets physically hurt when I move in bed, and when I walk around, I’m inclined to keep my left hand in my pocket so that I can keep whatever I’m wearing off of my hip. But that’s neither here nor there.
Once we got control over the schedule a bit better and started getting to sleep at 10:45 instead of midnight, and we hit our stride, things cleared right back up. Mostly. It’s just an important lesson for me — as much as I want to think of myself as a strong, competent, manly-man who is in charge of my body and my emotions, there’s a lot that has to go right for that to stay true. I have to eat well, get enough water and sleep, not suffer massive plaguing family trauma, and I have to get at least enough exercise to keep myself from atrophying from the inside out.
And all of that is an integral part of being a good father. Taking care of myself — whether that means forcing my wife to go to bed earlier or resisting the urge to slip off to Safeway for a sneak donut on the way to whatever solo appointment I’m headed toward — is part and parcel of taking care of my family. Because no matter how much I want to feel like I am the mæstør [NSFW, Profanity, Norweigans], there are a lot of ways that that control can slip — and part of my job is doing everything in my power to keep myself under my own control.