Parents, you may have noticed, talk a lot about sleep.
Often they talk about it slowly. They may seem confused and disorientated. Sometimes they will stop mid-sentence, gazing sadly into middle-distance, like a Vietnam Vet in a Don McCullin photograph.
This is what sleep deprivation does.
It is rare to meet a parent who has no complaint whatsoever with the sleeping habits of their offspring. Kids resist falling asleep, or wake regularly, or wake early, or have nightmares, or wet the bed, or wet someone else’s bed…
The permutations are endless, really.
Because of this, mums and dads are known to physically age by three parent years for every calendar year.
Rather like you might have a 14 year old Border Collie that is 98 in dog years, I am now 55 in parent years (I had my first child 7 years ago, and I’m currently 41 in calendar years…do the maths).
Alcohol, I’ve noticed, only makes the problem worse. Existing on 4 hours of broken sleep is one thing. Doing it after a heavy night on the Aussie Shiraz is another thing altogether.
This is why I all but gave up drinking some time ago.
I realised I can either drink, or parent. I can’t do both. So I ditched the booze in favour of raising my two boys.
I know…it was a truly selfless act.
What this means is that when I socialise with other parents, they get increasingly drunk on fruit-heavy new-world wine and I drink my own body weight in San Pellegrino.
They talk increasing amounts of nonsense and have huge amounts of fun, while I get to listen (in-between trips to the toilet), and have fun, but not quite as much.
I also hear, and remember, the things that drunk people talk about.
At a recent gathering wine had been drunk, conversation turned to sleep, and ‘fact’ had been pinned down and given a vigorous Chinese burn by its old friend ‘drunken nonsense.’
The ‘fact’ being debated was this: “apparently, if you put a tired baby on a washing line it will happily sleep there.”
A detailed analysis then took place about whether the baby needed to be hung, slumped, with the line running under the armpits, or whether pegs were needed, or whether the ‘hanging’ involved a sleeping bag and a large bulldog clip.
It were as if the truth of the statement were not the bit up for debate, only the method.
Which is the logic of the drunk person, of course.
Making no dent in the alcohol-fuelled discussions I slunk off and went to bed, safe in the knowledge that another alcohol free night had surely added several hours to my life expectancy.
Happily, next morning, no babies were hanging experimentally from the washing line.