Without Caffeine, Parenting Itself Would Be
Impossible But don't overlook the many benefits of
Becoming a parent is like being on an airplane when
the cabin suddenly depressurizes. You can't quite
catch your breath. The dishes and glasses fly
around and get broken. People get sucked out
through little holes. OK, that doesn't happen very
often, except to the baby. What I really have in
mind is something the uniformed crew members tell
us in their preflight speech. In the unlikely event
that you don't pay attention to this speech, I'll
remind you: "In the unlikely event that the oxygen
masks deploy, put your mask on first and then
assist your children."
This is a good rule for parents to follow
generally, not just onboard the aircraft. You have
to take care of yourself so you will be able to
take good care of your kids. This means making time
for the basic human activities that are necessary
to sustain you: exercise, eating right, watching
The Simpsons, and most importantly, sleep.
With a new baby in the house, you need more
sleep than ever. Yet you're probably getting less
sleep now than any time since that night in 1982
when you camped on the sidewalk to be first in line
for J. Geils Band tickets.
To find out if you suffer from sleep
deprivation, take this simple test:
- Do you find yourself nodding off during
normally stimulating events such as church
services, golf telecasts, or Gray Davis
- Have you ever gone to an important meeting
at work and then suddenly awoken in the
conference room, face down in a puddle of your
own drool, long after everyone else has left for
- Have you ever driven the wrong way on a
one-way street for three blocks before noticing
that there was a problem?
- Have you experienced difficulty recalling
minor details, like a friend's phone number, the
precise location of your car in the parking lot,
or your children's names?
- Have you ever been sitting at your computer,
trying to work, when you feel your head
(Note to department of social services: The
above question about going the wrong way on a
one-way street with the kids in the car is a purely
hypothetical example and is NOT based on the
personal experience of either my wife or myself. I
don't care what the police report says.)
If you answered "Yes", "I don't recall", or "I
refuse to answer on the grounds that my answer may
tend to incriminate me" to zero or more of these
questions, you may have Chronic Acute
Brain-dysfunction Insomnia-related Neo-parental
My wife and I have a severe case. We have a
3-year-old boy and a teething 7-month-old baby.
They sleep in shifts, as if they feel one has to be
on guard duty at all times.
Lack of sleep is not just annoying. It can be
dangerous. In extreme cases, sleep deprivation can
lead to fatigue-induced delusional behavior. Watch
for these warning signs: Do you or your spouse find
yourselves talking about irrational subjects, like
fear of alien abduction, the Denver Nuggets'
playoff chances, or having another baby?
But enough doom and gloom. What's the point of
telling parents they need sleep, when there is no
chance of them getting much of it in the
foreseeable future? Let's try to be optimistic.
Have you considered the many benefits of sleep
deprivation? For instance, my mother-in-law
recently told me that lack of sleep magnifies the
effect of alcohol by five times. I think she meant
it as a warning, but at the time I took it as a
Still, if you choose to ignore the upside of
sleep deprivation, there is something you can do.
By making the proper lifestyle choices, you can
have all the energy you need even with insufficient
sleep. I am referring, of course, to caffeine.
Unfortunately, only dadsand moms who have
weaned their babiescan successfully organize
their lives around this particular chemical.
Nursing mothers, I'm afraid you're on your own.
Experts recommend that you eschew caffeine while
breastfeeding. Besides, these babies are energetic
enough without turning the breast milk into a
double café au lait.
But remember, dads: when you go out for a venti
intravenous latte, you're just following the
parenting tip we discussed above. You're taking
care of yourself so you can be there for your
partner. But it's still a good idea to order a
decaf mocha for her, too.
Sadly, however, even caffeine sometimes isn't
enough. And at $3 plus for a simple cup of grande
double espresso caramel skinny vanilla soy no-foam
frappuccino, coffee alone may not be an economical
long-term solution. But there is hope. Just when
you think you're going to completely lose it,
something happens that reminds you why you love
being a parent and gives you the strength to carry
on. The other night, about 4:30 am, our 7-month-old
woke up and started crying. Before my wife or I
could get out of bed, our 3-year-old son Henry, who
shares a bedroom with the baby, started singing to
his little brother to comfort him. Daniel stopped
crying and went right back to sleep. I can't
describe the joy I felt as I drifted back into a
The next 20 minutes were the most restful sleep
I've had in a long time.
© 2012 John
Other Father Issues,
* * *
Parents are the bones on which children sharpen
their teeth. - Peter Ustinov
is a dad, a writer, and a lawyer (in that order).
He writes a syndicated biweekly humor column about
parenting and family life.. His columns have been
published or accepted for publication on websites
and in magazines around the world, from Maine to
Oregon, Colorado down to Texas, and down under in
Blood, Phlegm & Bile:
Parenting with Humor appears monthly on
menstuff.org. But, why the gross title? Well, for
one thing these are three substances with which
every parent becomes quite familiar. They were also
called the "humors" by medieval scientists who
believed that the proportion of these bodily fluids
determined a person's health and temperament. So
it's a pun! A pun requiring a lengthy explanation,
but a pun nonetheless. E-Mail
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