Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just Sleep

Mrs. Ditchman has not been sleeping well at all. Today she started to argue with me about what time it was that I came to bed last night, but then she stopped herself mid-sentence: she wasn't sure which night she was referring to.

We were discussing it because the little Ditchman was up bright and early and I got up to fetch her. I took her downstairs and we worked the morning routine -milk and coffee. An hour and a half later the Mommy came down for the morning, and upon sight of her I passed out on the couch for the next hour and a half. I needed more sleep. 

At one point this past weekend I was sitting in the booth, watching the world go by, wondering why anyone would really want an aluminum patio cover and I had a shocking thought that maybe this was the end. That this is what I've amounted to, the sum of all my life's labors -sitting here at some half-baked carnival, hawking schlock. And then this little 18 month-old kid came running up out of nowhere, laughing like it was paradise, and all the negative attitude just shamefully slunk away.

And again, we were reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and the reason we were reading it was because I was trying to distract her from mixing two insoluble childhood activities, coloring and reading, and I had to separate the books from the crayons. When we sat there on the couch and I began to read this old book which was brand new to this family, but I had had in my distant youth, I turned the first page to see a purple crayon slash drawn asymmetrically across the illustrations. There it was. One crayola mark, drawn as a dividing line in the sand between youth and adulthood. I wanted to scold her for drawing in the new book, and yet I was suddenly taken back to those Dr. Seuss books of my own childhood, the ones handed down to me by my siblings, with torn bindings and crayon slashes throughout -half of them probably made by me before I even grasped the stories.

And again, this morning I was off to work, in the middle of the routine, and the little girl said -and quite clearly and plainly- "Bye, bye Daddy," which was astonishing. It amounted to a whole sentence, subject and predicate, thought up on her own and expressed with intent. I was half way to Chula Vista before I remembered where I was going.

Parents always say, "Oh she's so smart!" or "He's really bright for his age!" but what they're really referring to is how different the child is from last week, from two weeks ago. It seems the older we get, the slower we learn, and we see little children do what comes naturally and we are amazed and impressed. Children get caught up in the moment and they are suddenly enlightened, their horizons broadened, and there is more to learn. As adults, we get caught up in the moment and it is a luckless distraction.

Every night I go in to her room, a couple times even, to see how she is sleeping. Somehow, she always seems to have her head on the opposite side of the bed as the last time I checked on her, but she is almost always dead out. I have to put my hand on her chest to see if she is breathing, and I wonder, why I can't sleep like that? And I figure it is the purpose of dream state, to process the data collected from the day. As we get older we focus more on the past: what she was like last week, last month... how much fun that was last year, how much better off we were back when -and we compare it all, which is nothing to dream about. It seems nowadays that there is less to process after another day's work -this day like yesterday, like the day before it, but kids know nothing of all that. They go all day, eyes wide open, taking it all in.

And they sleep like babies.