When afternoon nap time comes around, the boy is generally quite receptive to the idea. He gets into his pyjamas, grabs a car or two, then heads upstairs to bed. I’ll generally read him two stories before tucking him in tight. A few minutes later, he’s out like a light. Nighttime sleeping is drastically different, though, in that he’ll stay awake for hours and insist that I stay with him. Thanks to a rather large music library, the boy can listen to some quiet music until he falls asleep. Children’s song instrumentals are his favourite. Rock-a-Bye Baby, however, is the one I generally put in single-song repeat after an hour. Until he falls asleep, I am a prisoner in my own house … and the evening chores won’t do themselves.

My parents would generally close the door at night time and say “go to sleep” a couple of times — usually with the last one being the most forceful — which allowed them to have a couple of moments to watch TV or nap before heading to bed themselves. This isn’t how child rearing works in Japan, though, and many fathers find themselves waiting around for their kids to fall asleep at the end of the day. Phones certainly help with a mild distraction from time to time, but staring at a glowing screen in a dark room for long periods of time is just a recipe for eye strain and headaches. So, while the boy is listening to his lullabies until the sandman arrives, I’m listening to podcasts with headphones at a low volume. It’s one of the few times of day when I can generally concentrate on that people are saying.

While looking through the recent podcast list, I was struck by how different the subscriptions are today than to any time in the past. There are zero technical discussions. Every education-based show has been dropped. Even the science, history, and space-related shows are out. The music shows that I’ve enjoyed for a decade continue to put out excellent episodes every week, and there are a few shows from friends online. The new themes that one would instantly see in the podcatcher, though, are religion and philosophy; topics that encourage debate and discussion.

Earlier today the boy was quickly approaching two hours of singing in bed when, in desperation, I shut off the music and put on one of these philosophical shows. Less than five minutes after the switch, the boy started snoring. Music to my ears.

Going forward I’ll have to do this more often. I’ll find out which sorts of shows put him to sleep and build a little library of saved discussions. This should afford a bit more time in the evenings for me to do what I really want to do: learn.