We were in the car, driving, heading north to visit their sister in college. The way there was split into two parts, as we left on a Thursday evening and were going to arrive on Friday morning.
I made the kids get up sometime around 6am so that we could hit the road. We had roughly 4 hours left before we hit the college town and picked up their sister. We had a deadline: we were supposed to get to a studio where we were getting a tour. Why or how this happened – and what it was like – are a completely different story. Suffice to say . . . we got there and amazement was had by all.
About an hour into the trip only one of the four people in the car was awake. Fortunately that was me, the driver. Could have been quite disastrous otherwise. I moved along, news playing through the car’s speakers, when my son woke up in the back seat.
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“That I fell asleep.”
“That’s okay. We have a ways to go so no big deal.”
“But you don’t get to sleep.”
“Well…no. That’s okay, though.”
He was quiet for awhile, his brother and sister breathing heavy in their REM slumber.
“So how do you do it,” he asked, his head cocked just a bit to the side.
“Stay awake like that. Is it like a super power? When you become an adult do you get the ability to not fall asleep or to stay awake without needing sleep?”
I had to try hard not to laugh because he was actually quite serious.
“No,” was about all I could muster. “No, it’s not a super power being able to stay awake. I just do.”
He couldn’t wrap his head around it. It honestly seemed to bother him that he got 9 hours of sleep and was barely able to stay awake and I kept going.
Sleep. More appropriately staying awake. It’s probably not a superpower. I would suppose sleep is more Kryptonite to my waking hours than staying awake is a superpower.
I didn’t go into the routines of the day with him. I don’t know that he’d understand and I don’t want him to think I am put upon in my role as a single dad. Yet, to give him fuel for that super power fire, I realized, when we got home from the trip, around 5pm, I didn’t get to just sit on the couch. All the clothes in the bags we’d packed needed to be washed, as did their PE clothes from the week.
The house was a mess. I started dinner, which while lacking in complication, was still something needing to be made. While that simmered I loaded up the dishwasher, ran it, and switched out the loads of laundry.
I made cookies, then lunches, then cleaned up the table. Fortunately while out I’d purchased some Coltrane with Kenny Burrell for the turntable and we listened to some old jazz while I cleaned up.
Staying awake isn’t really a super power, it’s just a necessary evil when you get older, I suppose. Sometimes you work too many hours and the elusive hours of sleep are because you obsess over success in your job. Then there’s the times when you do something wonderful with your family . . . and then you have to pick up the routine right after.
What they didn’t see was that exhaustion hit about an hour early and after cleaning up the last of the night’s dishes . . . I was done. Spent. Nine hours of driving, laundry, dinner . . . that had taken its toll, even on me.
As I said . . . sleep. Kryptonite for the super dad.