Sleep Is Wasted on the Youth

sleeping childYou’ve heard it said that “youth” is wasted on the young. That’s ridiculous.

It’s the ability to crash into bed well past one’s bedtime and spring from the depths of a warm comforter at the crack of dawn both bright-eyed and bushy-tailed that is squandered completely on the people too short to peer into a mirror at the bags under their eyes.

Not that they have any, naturally.

It’s the parents who were up even later than “well past bedtime” who have the lion’s share of the bags. The suitcase on the left side is from rising on Saturday mornings to make oatmeal before the sun’s come up. The duffel on the right side from being asked if it’s time to get up yet at 4 a.m. Funny thing: teach a 6-year-old how to read a (digital) clock, and they’ll spit the numbers right at you, without debating their meaning. Four, Two, Two is said with the sort of triumph otherwise reserved for the no-handed ride on the bicycle. “Look, Ma, I know my numbers!”

There was a time when I could sleep until noon on a Saturday, climb out of bed, putter around the house, and still be yearning for a return to the comfort of a pillow top mattress and warm flannel sheets. Now I’d give up my iPod and my iPhone to keep both eyes clamped shut past 8 a.m. Even life with a husband who believes in the share and share alike method of parenting — whereby one weekend morning is mine for sleeping, the other is his — doesn’t prevent the inevitable jolt awake caused by a bony elbow to the guts at the same time a pillow pet comes sliding across the nose.

Doesn’t this kid understand what she’s missing?

Even as the teen years leave me frozen with terror at parenting, gulp, a teenage girl, I can’t help savoring the thought of sweet relief. Sweet science will demand that she imitate a lump until at least 11 a.m. Of course she’ll want to stay up late then too, but at least it will be inside the confines of her room, likely with door slammed and music blaring in her ears.

It can only be an improvement over the thump, clomp, thump that signals another escape out of the room and down the stairs for water, to pee out the water, for a missing stuffed animal, for a friend for the missing stuffed animal . . . that means I’ll be up late again tonight doing what can’t be done when she’s awake.

If only I could sleep in tomorrow.


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