Sunday, March 09, 2008

After three beers, work doesn't seem so weird

"If you lose two hours of sleep, that can impair your performance equivalent to having had two to three beers. So, you know, you wouldn't go to work that way, hopefully - not drinking, but we do that with a couple hours of sleep loss."

There I was, laying on the couch at 9:30 p.m., with a mountain of clean, but unfolded, laundry, watching CBS Sunday Morning because I never have time to watch it when it airs since 3B has been up quite awhile by then, and is running at full speed. Actually, he's running at full speed from the moment he awakes, unlike Mama and I, who take at least 30-45 minutes to get going in the morning.

Today, it was nonstop action. We took 3B to the National Air & Space Museum before his nap, and we reprised yesterday's trip to Del Ray this afternoon between lunch and dinner, taking Barky for a walk and 3B for a romp on the playground. 3B had never been to Air & Space before and ran into the great entry hall with his mouth agape and his finger pointing up over his head, swinging from one object to the next.

He was enraptured for almost our entire visit, except those times that we wouldn't let him do what he "want exactly," for example, climb into the helicopter--then he was temporarily enraged, but there were always plenty of other shiny things to distract him. And us. We were so carried away showing him planes--the Spirit of St. Louis! a DC-3! Glamorous Glennis!--and rockets--which he declared "Very cool."--that we missed the entire kid's touch-and-feel gallery on the first floor. Next time, we'll start there.

After all of that excitement, we came straight home so 3B could nap. Often, we're so tired that we'll take short naps when he does on the weekend, but today we decided to finally get to some outstanding items on our to-do lists--and you thought we'd never send those holiday cards, didn't you?--so we stayed awake and worked. Man, did that suck.

And it sucked more when a fully recharged 3B awoke and ran us ragged until, in a grand finale, he peed on the futon, took a bath, pooped on the bathmat, and went to bed. So, as I was lying on the couch, dozing over my my ice cream and brownie, watching Sunday Morning, I was wondering how I could feel so tired. After all, I used to work 80-hour, 6-day weeks, which often involved no more than five hours of sleep each night. According to the math in the show, on a standard work day, I was showing up operating as if I'd already had half a six-pack before I arrived.

Maybe that's why my job never struck me as strange until Mama, who also worked there, pointed out that when the TV show "Strange Universe" shows up to film a documentary piece on your workplace, you work in a strange place.

But if the hours of sleep deprivation=beers drunk equation is accurate, and if it's also the case, as it seems to be, that we have a greater tolerance for alcohol and sleep deprivation when we're young--I'm wondering about my capabilities as a parent.

However, I will say this for myself--at least I know how to self-medicate. That information that Sunday Morning had about coffee was material for a primer, not for an expert. I had learned all of that by the time I graduated from high school, through thorough self-experimentation. Of course, I also knew that after six cups of coffee, my pee smelled pretty much like it was poured straight from the pot. So, even if I'm the equivalent of three sheets to the wind when I pull 3B out of his crib, I can at least still teach him something ... "two to three cups, OK ... four to six cups, have Mama change your diaper."

But seriously, I'm going to stop typing and turn in. I don't want 3B to be depraved on account of I was sleep deprived.

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  1. Anonymous9:36 AM

    I want that elephant headdress from the Follies. That was awesome!

    I'm looking with trepidation upon the imminent demise of The Boy's nap. When he starts kindergarten in the fall, I know it will be completely over.

  2. When they go to Kindergarten, you get a 2 hour nap again. When they are teenagers, you learn to go to bed before them.

    This week Boy child #1 has school and already started the whine, "I don't want to go to school!!" The girls (in the middle) get late start at 10 due to WASL testing. Boy child #4 needs to get to school. His prefered mode of transportation is a long board or a rip stick..... so long as it is not raining.

    I don't do coffee so I will have to stick to the beer... or daquiris in my case. I have learned from your comments here to start earlier in the morning!!

  3. If that equation is true, I am plowed right now.

  4. My girl napped all the way through kindergarten. Her smart mother signed her up for morning class so she could come home and nap. Of course, I napped with her, because I was pregnant at the time. As soon as I sent her to school for full days, her brother arrived.

    Now that she is a teenager, she gets to sleep in for WASLs too, but her brother still catches the bus at the regular time, and the dog does not have a clock. She just knows when it is time to go out.

    What I want to know, is if the state planned WASL sleep in week for the week after the clocks were set ahead an hour on purpose? Did they know how poorly teenagers respond to the loss of an hour of sleep?

  5. Amama: You don't want the walkers from the dance of Lourdes?

    Kmoo & CAGirl: I'm glad to hear that napping runs in the family. That means we've got some hope to keep napping. And if he doesn't keep napping, I know that I can blame it on Mama's genes. Her mom recently pointed out that Mama's brother slept perfectly and that Mama "never slept." Mama asked, "What do you mean 'never slept'?" Her mom said, "I mean you never slept. Never. Ever."

    Christy: And, by your own account, you have been for awhile. Here's hoping the new diet gives you a chance to dry out.

  6. Impairment is a funny thing. It can be measured a lot of ways.

    Reflex time, for example: This is what makes it so dangerous to drive impaired. It's hard to react quickly to sudden changes in front of you.

    But a lag in reflexive reaction sometimes is a strength when you're a parent.

    Judgment doesn't get affected on a linear scale. It's not so much that judgment gets necessarily poor or sharp. But priorities shift. Humor wears thin, ironically as a sense of whimsy increases. ("I . . . will . . . swat you into the middle of next week!")

    Most of all, when you know you don't have the capability to do three things, you get a lot sharper at triage--picking which thing you are going to do, because it is the most important. When you're in tip-top shape, you dare yourself to multitask, to stretch yourself, to be a superhero and do everything, often with results that are just fine.

    But when it's 2 a.m. and you're brain-numb from sleep deprivation, and the choice is between nursing the kid and paying the phone bill, the peripheral vision disappears and you go straight to what matters most.

    You develop the ability to ignore. That's something you don't have when you're not impaired. When you're not impaired, you don't have to sort between what really matters and what just sort of matters if you have time for it. When it's a matter of life and getting back to that pillow and sweet delicious REM sleep, your cull sense of what can be ignored grows preternaturally sharper.

    I suspect this is part of what goes into the cliche of a great alcoholic like Grant's being a great battlefield general. He needed a broad picture of what was going on, but to make critical minute-by-minute decisions, he also needed a powerful ability to ignore distractions that would have bogged down another leader and go straight to the heart of a tactical victory. Making the right decision on the battlefield isn't always as important as making a decision.

    That's my thoroughly unprofessional, uninformed opinion. Never been much of a general or a parent myself. Though I have missed an hour or two of sleep on occasion. That was all on a different coast, though, which affects things in a different way . . .

  7. MrJ: Good insights all. They've tested climbers on Everest and found that they have the mental acuity of 5-year-olds, but I'm not sure in what mental skills. I'm fairly sure that not many 5-year-olds could get to the summit of Everest, given the complex decisions necessary throughout the process, but those were their findings.

    Also, when you moved back to the left coast, you should have gotten all those hours back and therefore be perfectly well rested.