As a parent you are always looking to be a better human being in order to serve as a better example for your kids. Sometimes you can become a better person simply as the result of maintaining some piece of your dwindling sanity.
My oldest daughter hated sleep for the first year of her life. It was either that or she liked my wife and me so much that she couldn’t bear to be away from us for one minute, even if she had mercifully fallen asleep. I tend to think it was the former because I’ve met me and the latter just isn’t that likely, but that is inconsequential. She would only sleep while laying on one of us for at least that first year (I’m still not sure exactly how long it went on because my memory of that year is pretty cloudy – 6 hours of sleep a month will do funny things).
Eventually, though, her sleeping improved slightly, that is to say she would occasionally sleep by herself for short stints. It was during this time that my wife and I developed the first two rules for our house in the era of children:
Rule #1 – Don’t wake the baby.
Rule #2 – Seriously, DON’T WAKE THE BABY.
There were grave consequences were either of these rules to be violated, too. Primarily, you would have a baby that was awake.
Further complicating the sleep situation in our house, we somehow became pregnant with our second daughter, Lemon, when Bug was about 6 months old. I say ‘somehow’ because, as I mentioned, that first year of Bug’s life is still pretty fuzzy. So, now I was living with a baby who was clearly hostile to sleep and a pregnant wife who was increasingly hostile to being awake. It was incumbent upon me to put every effort forward that I could possibly muster to ensure sleep happened in our house.
My part of the solution was to become the most considerate human being that has ever walked the Earth. I would take any precaution – unplugging appliances, disconnecting phones, aggressively thwarting possible door knockers, putting socks on the dog – but mostly I got into the habit of going through my every motion mindfully so as not to disturb even a cushion of air that I passed. I trained myself to go about each moment of everyday thinking of others first. Mind you, some of the motivation was largely in the interest of the salvation of my sanity, but the results were the same.
Sleep happens in my house now, or at least it is much more routine than it once was (as far as I can remember), but the lessons leading to my constant consideration of those around me have remained. And while such vigilance had a specific purpose in the beginning, there has been an unexpected and enduring by-product – happiness. The practice of thinking of others before I thought of myself, of selfless consideration, has directly led to me being a happier person. As my ego fades, my light grows – and the Thoughtful Pop walks on, smiling. No amount of sleep could ever feel this good.
*Author’s Note – It would be grossly inaccurate to imply that I found my way alone to a considerate life. I was given an enormous head start on that path long before I was a Pop at all by the original Thoughtful Pop, my Dad. Allen Brown is consideration embodied and exemplifies the life of “service above self”. Thanks, Pop – as has been so clear to me throughout my life, my happiness can be traced back to you.