Let’s talk about kids. I’ve got three of them.
They’re going to be the end of me, but I love them to death. And, for a while, that death felt like it would come from lack of sleep. It doesn’t get more primal than kids and sleep in sweet disharmony. At least not for a quiet man living in the comfort of modern civilization. We’re all feral to some extent. You connect with that part of yourself once you’ve tried to nurse a child to sleep for the seventh night. And failed. Hour after hour. After hour.
That’s the thing with modern technology: It can measure and coach you to a good night’s sleep, but it only takes the cry of a child to realize that, sometimes, the only thing that works is simply being there. It’s not by neglect or coincidence that concepts designed to help us get a better night’s sleep rarely account for the chaos of domestic life. In those concepts, we are all young or young-ish. We drink green smoothies and we run with friends through parks. We are not tired. We smile. In those imaginings, we are the group of people least likely to need help. But we’re the ones most likely to latch onto any tool that says it can.
Fat chance it’ll help once that special someone comes into your life, tiny and soft with a voice like an opera diva. When the child cries, it breaks your app’s machine learning and cracks your fitness bracelet in two. Our years of research and development won’t last a minute against a child on a rampage against sleep.
But you can last. You will last.
Why? Because you got the best goddamn invention ever designed to understand sleep, and that’s your body. But to learn it, you’ve got to feel it. And while this is true for any situation, this is your baseline and it’s never as important as when you’re fighting fatigue on a playing field where someone else sets the rules. You can’t feel it if you’re fiddling with settings or configuring a wearable. Put those things away. They won’t help.
Instead, accept the situation. Embrace it.
Acknowledge that you are dead tired. Feel no shame in your frustration. Love has plenty of room for frustration — as long as you’re honest about it. Hold your child. Hold them close. Even when they scream. Wear those headphones that workers at construction sites do. If weather allows it, take a nightly walk. Sleep when your child sleeps. Shower tomorrow. Don’t bother about chores. If you’re lucky, you’ve got a partner that can worry about those. Work on the routines. The evening is for bedtime, the night is for sleep. Don’t take advice from people who prey on your emotions. No one knows the bond between you and your child better than you do. Cancel any social obligations that don’t give you good energy. You don’t have to meet your friends and pretend that having a kid is great. It’s okay to scream into the pillow and pound on the walls. Love is primitive, rarely pretty. That’s why it’s beautiful.
Because in time, your child will sleep through the night. Your memory of these battles will fade. You’ll fire up that app or bracelet again, count your steps, note your calories and read your sleep journals. Graphs and charts will once again try to tell you something about who you are and who you could be. That’s not a bad thing. Technology is great when it can teach you something about yourself.
But there will be situations when it has nothing to offer. That’s when you take a pause and stay in the present. You enjoy the silence from your machines as you listen to the wail of your kid. Once this rage has passed, you might find that this primal part of you misses it. Perhaps even yearns for it again. After all, I’ve got three kids and I’m still young.