Waiting for the Sandman

Two weeks ago the boy's bed was "upgraded" from the one he's been using almost since birth to a mattress like the one that Reiko and I use, and it has not been an easy transition at all. As one would expect when the walls are removed from a toddler's sleeping area, adjustments need to be made. There's more room to explore. More room to make a mess. More room to play. This comes as no surprise to anybody. However, as his father, it falls to me to ensure he stays in his bed and drifts off to sleep. For the moment, that means sitting next to — or relatively close to — him while his youthful energy is expended so that the sandman can pay a visit.

As there's no denying he'd probably bounce around on the bed until he fell off and broke a limb if left alone, it has fallen to me to allocate as many as 90 minutes of my evening to ensure he falls asleep. Selfish as it may sound, I have grown to dislike this enforced downtime as there's just about nothing for me to do aside from tell the kid it's time to settle down and get some sleep. Glowing screens, whether from a notebook or phone, will distract him and result in constant visits to see what's happening. The same holds true when listening to a podcast on low volume. A paper book seemed like a logical alternative to a light-emitting piece of technology, but having the room lit enough to read results in a boy who doesn't know it's bed time. The only way to really get him to sleep is to let him tire himself out after reading a couple of books1 and ensuring he doesn't have any reason to move around too much. This means sitting next to him and doing … nothing.

Well … not nothing nothing. But very little of value can be done while he's winding down and getting ready to sleep. So I generally have to sit in the dark with him until he's mostly still. This should be a time of quiet enjoyment, but I find the enforced downtime to be incredibly frustrating. One of the reasons I wind up crawling into bed after 1:00am on weekdays is because I generally have three hours of work to do in the evenings. Starting just 60 minutes earlier would — theoretically — allow me to finish the day at midnight and get an extra hour of sleep2.

There's no doubt in my mind that I'll look back on these days of innocence and miss the opportunities I had with the boy as he was growing up just for the sake of staying on top of the bills, the mortgage, and the education fund. There's a lot more to life than money. We all know this. Given the choice, we would all (probably) prefer to fall asleep next to our toddler and enjoy a good night's sleep rather than trudge back downstairs and sit in front of a terminal window as the rest of the neighbourhood gets ready for bed.

Responsibility can be a heavy burden, and the weight can sometimes cause a person to put too much emphasis on a set of priorities with the lowest return on investment.


  1. We read a lot of Mr. Men together. I've not yet found any Little Miss books in the shop.

  2. This really is a theoretical statement, as I'm not particularly keen on wasting an opportunity. Given that the body is already accustomed to being awake until 1:30 ~ 2:00 every morning, some extra time could be spent on personal projects or, better still, reading.