I lay in bed for hours, turning this way and that. Now I’m too cold. Now the pillow is too hot. The LED lights on my computer are simply too bright for me to sleep, so I have to get up and cover them with electrician’s tape. My arm has gone to sleep. My leg has a cramp. Earlier, my 5 year old nephew, Ethan, has gone to sleep after lying in bed for about three minutes and having his back rubbed by me.
Not only has he gone to sleep instantly, but he didn’t even feel tired before. Sure, he was cranky. He cried when I suggested that he watch 30 minutes of TV and then do his homework. He sat for a quarter of an hour and sulked over a spoonful of macaroni & cheese he had to eat. Tired, though? Not him – as far as he knows, anyway. Children don’t know they’re tired. You can see it, you can see how their body rebels against them running around every waking moment. (My body certainly rebels against that kind of thing, so I spend most of the day at a computer chair or on a couch.)
He didn’t want to go to bed, and he fought it as long as he could, only succumbing at last to the back-rubbing. Children don’t want to go to bed. As an adult, I know that if I don’t go to bed, I’ll be tired in the morning. My relationships will suffer, my work will suffer, my health will suffer. So he’s never tired and he doesn’t want to go to bed, but when he does he’s asleep immediately. While I, knowing the value of sleep, am denied it by my body.
As a child, though, you don’t know any of that. Along with not knowing what being tired is, he also doesn’t know when he’s a jerk. If something bad happens, it’s not his fault – it’s mine. Or, probably yours, whoever you are that’s reading this. If you’re tired, everyone else is mean. You’re not being an asshole. As a five year old, everybody else is mean, never you. As an adult, I am forced to acknowledge that sometimes, it is I who am the asshole, and I have to be tired while knowing that. And that’s why I’d like to be five years old again.