Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sleep Deprivation

Ah, the bread and butter of parenting. Whether you're up with a colicky baby at midnight, changing your child’s sheets at three in the morning or waiting up for your teenage daughter to get home while you watch the sun claw its way into the Eastern sky; if you're a parent you've been there. Let's face it, if you've got a little one in the house the chances of you getting a good night's sleep are, at best, a coin toss.

So how do we cope? For all you new parents out there I'd say get yourself acclimatized and fast. You don't want this particular aspect of parenting sneaking up on you unaware. Oh sure, lots of books and experts will tell you to get your rest when you can. Good advice. However, before you reach that stage it's a good idea to figure out not only how you'll react to acute sleep deprivation but how to remain functional between those night time naps. Moreover, if you know there's a good chance you'll be up at night prep your environment beforehand. If you're going to be doing midnight feedings prep the bottles of similac before you rack out. Likewise, if you even suspect your child might be ill lay down a towel under them or stash a bucket within easy reach of the bed just on the off chance you wake up to the unique sound of your child's gag reflex kicking in. The few seconds you'll save knowing where that particular vomit receptacle is might just net you a few extra minutes sleep later on instead of being stuck changing some very funky smelling Dora sheets.

Seriously, being prepared in this respect does wonders for that whole long-term-child-survivability thing. For me, I found the best way for me to learn this particular skillset was through military service. The thinking goes something like this: If you can handle live ammunition and enough explosives to stop a small armoured vehicle on two days without sleep, chances are you can walk the floor with a croupy child at three in the morning and remain calm. Is it hard? Hell, yeah. Why do you think the national average birth rate is dropping. Somebody talked. However, if you do find yourself facing imminent parenthood the secret is don't panic. For all you new parents out there, or parents to be, I can tell you this. You do get used to it. Last weekend I flew back from overseas. Travel time? 21 hours with no sleep stuck in one economy class seat after another with a bunch of drunken Germans seated behind me providing my soundtrack for the flight. When I came home I prepared dinner, gave my son a bath, read him stories and put him to bed and though things got kind of blurry towards the end at least I managed to cover the basics (at least I think I did). Bottom line? It's doable. Besides, just think of when your own kids are grown. They, too, will get to see that half-mad twinkle in your eye when they mention how THEIR kids are keeping them up at night. Remember, that crazed giggle you hear from your parents whenever you kvetch about how tired you are? Now at least you know what caused it.

A couple more pictures from Geneva:

Me and Chateau Chillon

The Chateau on the road to Montreaux. This place doesn't come in unphotogenic.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Das ist einer neue Deutcher Blogger....

Got im Himmel! Apparently if you try to blog from a foreign country “blogger” helpfully tries to go native by giving you all local language on your blog option buttons (in this case, German). Wunderbar!

So, here I am three days into my Geneva adventure, 1 am local time, and rather than sleeping, I'm blogging. Yes kids, daddy's crazy, go get the shotgun. Speaking of kids, that's what this one's going to be about. Well, d’uh. More specifically, it's about how to deal with the steady bleeding from that which makes up your soul when you realize you're on the other side of the planet from your kids. Now many of you would simply raise a glass, sit back and say, "like this!" before downing your Margarita, and that's ok for some. Unfortunately, I'm not wired that way. Proof? I just spent 200 Francs on gifts for my kids to help stem the bleeding. Ah, guilt! It could drive an entire tourism based economy. (Heck it worked for diamonds.) But I digress. Apart from meals the most I've bought for myself is a newspaper. And this is what I'm on about. How do you keep from missing your kids when they are your raison d’etre? Well, thanks to my experience as a part time dad to my eldest, I've gotten a lot of practice in. So what to do?
  • The first thing is remind yourself it's temporary. You will see them again. Yes it hurts, but it won't be forever. Think of this as slapping a bandage over the wound. It won't last forever but it'll stem the bleeding for the moment.

  • Second: if you're going to focus on them, don't wallow. Do something for them. I don't care if you've been stationed at the ISS. Buy them something. Take a photo of something they might find interesting to share later. Make them something. Anything. Use your imagination. It’s supposed to come “standard issue” for parents. No, really, take a look. See it’s that one there next to the bottle marked “tolerance”.

  • Three: Here's a no-brainer. Call them. Even if they can't come to the phone. Tell them you love them. It might not seem like much right now but in the long run consider it as parental CYA for when they’re older and accusing you of not being there. Also email works, maybe a post card, webcam or

  • Four: Borrow someone else's kids (legally, of course. No, no I mean it. Put the baby back where you found it.) But seriously, in my case I got off the plane and there was Chris with his two sons Lucas and Michael. I was jetlagged, frazzled and missing my boys to the point of tears but when a little one puts his had in yours, it doesn't matter if he's biologically related. He's either looking for you to take the lead or wants to take the lead himself. Either works. And it helps stop the bleeding, let me tell you.

A famous quote I keep close to me hits on that last point, something fierce. It goes like this.

" In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land, so that they look no more backward; and the hand may be a little child’s."-
George Eliot, Silas Marner

Heck, I don't claim to be that Christian, but the dude's got a point. And that was something that was driven home to a very tired man who missed his kids who stumbled off a plane three days ago. A big thanks to Lucas and Michael for reminding me of that.

Okay, enough sob story. How about some photos?

Dash-8 to Montreal. Air Canada's finest. $hit, I'm deaf.

In ottawa Jamie wear's his MP3 player on the bus. In Geneva...well...guess he wouldn't need one.

Lucas and Michael challenging each other to a game of Chess.

The view of the lake and the "Old City" from my hotel room.