Friday, July 20, 2007

The 5 am Father

When I was a small boy, I always marveled at how early my father would get up to go to work. On those rare occasions when I needed to get up at the same time he did (usually to leave for a scout camp or something), it was nothing short of a horrible experience. I complained bitterly, dragged my feet, and generally made it miserable for everybody awake at that obscene hour.

In those days, my father would usually leave for work before 6 am (meaning he'd have to wake around 5 am), carpooling with some coworkers of his. With his one-hour commute and the 10-hour workday, he would usually get home around 6 pm. I thought he was crazy and never understood why he didn't leave later so he could get a little more sleep.

So just this morning, I was grumbling about how I had to get up so early, when it occurred to me that I now get up at around the same time he used to. I get up around 5 am nearly every day of the week, except on Saturday. My work -- also a 1-hour commute -- recently went to a 9-hour workday, with every other Friday off. So, in order for me to get home at an early enough hour to spend any time with my wife and children before they go to bed, I need to get up by 5 to be out the door by 6 to be at work by 7.

When I made this connection, it suddenly occurred to me why he woke up so early. He did it for his family. He would go to work early so he could get home at an hour where he could spend time with his family, just like I do now for my family. My father wasn't crazy -- he just wanted time with his kids!

So now, I understand him a bit better. I understand why sleeping in on the weekends was such a special thing for him -- even though he still usually woke up at 7 am, which, to me, wasn't exactly late enough to be considered "sleeping in" (but it sure is now!). I understand why he was sometimes grumpy after coming home from work (he was really tired and maybe, just maybe, he had had a bad day at work). I understand why Sunday afternoon naps were so important to him. I understand how it is he used to fall asleep in the recliner watching (or not, as the case often was) TV. He wasn't crazy at all, he was simply sleep deprived, and was doing it to himself of his own free will, just so he could spend time with us kids every single day because he loved us.

Now I'm just like him. I came to the same solution to the time-crunch problem that he did -- I now sacrifice sleep so I can be with my children. I do not brag about it, it's just the way it is. My children need me to be with them, and I want to be with them. Isn't it funny how age does make you smarter? I finally get it! I just wish my own kids would be a little more understanding when I fall asleep on the couch at perfectly random times. After all, it's tough being a 5 am father. I'm sure they'll figure that out one of these days ...

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