Tonawanda News


May 8, 2012

Parenting causes insanity by sleep deprivation

— — Parents of young children who complain about too little sleep — well, it’s almost become a cliche.

The funny thing about cliches, though, is that they are still fairly factual.

I used to spend half a day struggling to wake up if I got a wink less than 10 hours of sleep in a night. Now, if I get that   much sleep in two nights, it’s not too shabby.

The fact that youngins wake up so early isn’t fair, really. It seems that there should be some sort of primer for this, a   Baby Boot Camp that tests a potential parent’s tolerance for sleep deprivation.

It makes me scoff, really, when non-parents offer a single utterance about a lack of shut-eye. For any reader who may have   yet to experience parenthood, here is what a typical night looks like with two toddlers in the house — consider this your   Boot Camp.

12:20 a.m. I get home from work. Between the natural high that being active for the past 10 hours provides and the artificial   high provided by the tasty-if-unhealthy quantities of sweet, sweet caffeine I consumed over the evening, I can’t go to sleep   right away. So I call up a show on DVR, catch a few minutes of a movie on cable (more than a few minutes if “Gladiator” is   re-airing) or do a bit of “Wii Fit” before making myself go to bed.

12:52 a.m. Darn it. Forgot to do my laundry.

1:35 a.m. The wash now in the drier, I return to the bedroom to find Rigby asleep on the floor. I should be more surprised   to find him there, but he often likes to start a night in his fire truck bed and end it in our bed, and sometimes he falls   back asleep before climbing up next to Mommy. So I carry him back to his bed and settle into mine.

1:39 a.m. Wearing a mid-afternoon grin, Rigby makes his way back into our bed. I pull him up between Mommy and me. He hugs   me before drifting back asleep ... eventually.

1:48 a.m. Rigby doesn’t like being squished. He’s taken a particular liking to crawling on top of the covers, making his way   to the end of the bed and settling in between Mommy’s legs, using one of them as his pillow. I used to think he deserved better   bed positioning that that, but ... meh, if he’s comfortable, it doesn’t really matter. Unless I get cold and he anchors the   blankets underneath him. That’s why there’s now a second comforter taking up permanent residence on the floor on my side of   the bed.

3:30 a.m. I’m awoken from a dream about Big Bird and Batman fighting the Backyardigans for control of the map to Dora’s house   (yeah, I watch too many kid’s shows) by Penny crying for me. I’m barely awake and blurry-eyed as I try to rub enough sleep   out of my eyes to go to their room and tend to her. I focus in closer on the clock, trying to decipher the numbers through   my exhaustion haze. Wait, does that actually say 3:30? No, it doesn’t. What the ...

2:28 a.m. I hug Penny, who’s sitting up in her bed upset about her bad dream, then lay her down and hold her hand until she   falls back asleep. Or, at least, I try to, as she considers now the perfect time to ask about my night at work (many days,   I only see Penny before she goes to school, and she always asks the next day how my night at work was) and tell me about the   goings-on with Malik, Lauralei and the rest of her friends at school. I eventually get her to stop talking, and she falls   asleep a few seconds later.

3:32 a.m. Penny decides she’s had enough of her bed. She comes into ours, worming her way into the middle and leaving me just   enough room on the edge of the bed to not fall off if I stay on my side while leaning all of my weight toward the opposite   edge. My arm that’s stuck underneath me quickly falls asleep. But I’m tired, and I quickly fall asleep, too.

4:07 a.m. There are 12 limbs in this bed right now that don’t belong to me. One of them smacked me in the back of the head.   Ouch.

5:22 a.m. The lack of sunlinght does nothing to dissuade Rigby’s assertion that it’s morning. He gives me a kiss to get me   out of bed and insists that I escort him downstairs. I tell him it’s too early. My pleas go unheeded. After two minutes of   back-and-forth, I roll out of bed (literally — I’ve teetered on the edge for nearly two hours now) and take him down to get   some breakfast. Any sporadic dozing that I do on the couch or recliner quickly ceases when I either hear Rigby eating a dog   biscuit he stole from Bella or see him run past me into the play room with a handful of candy (he’s challenging our theory   that the Easter candy can be stored at a height that he can’t reach).

To be fair, Mommy takes turns as the early riser, with the one who stays in bed often getting to “sleep in” until 7 or later.   From there, child-shuttling, appointment-fulfilling and errand-running generally consume the remaining minutes until I have   to return to work. Then the cycle resets.

And that’s why children so quickly surpass their parents’ intellectual capacities — forget that “getting old” stuff, years   of sleep deprivation accumulate to deterioriate an adult’s IQ to Forrest Gumpian levels.

This is far from the first commentary on the lack of sleep that parenthood provides. It won’t be the last, either, because   children will continue to keep their parents running on empty until the human race ceases to breed.

And that may be the next time I get a good night’s sleep.

Contact Paul Lane at


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