My (at the time) nine year old looks at me across the dinner table and asks, in all seriousness, 'Dad, when did you start going bald?'
While Wifey is laughing I answer him with a question of my own: 'How old are you?'
Even at nine years he gets the point and exclaims 'Hey!', pretending to be insulted.
Only I wasn't kidding (that much). Becoming a parent has taken a toll on me. For the past ten years I've aged more than the previous 30 years combined. It's like becoming President - you age in dog years. I don't know how my parents managed five kids without turning to dust in front of our eyes.
If you have kids you know what I mean. You start forgetting the names of your good friends. You walk into a room, look around and completely forget why you entered in the first place. Instead of your favorite Rolling Stones song, that fucking alien Elmo's voice is bouncing around in your decaying skull.
Take solace, my child ridden friends, for we have answers. As always, science is here to help explain away our dementia. It turns out that people who get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night have 'faster aging brains'. Yay!
So, when you have to get up at 11pm, then 3 am, then 6 am because that goddamn baby needs to eat ALL THE FUCKING TIME your brain is aging more rapidly than that childless, lucky son of a bitch snoring away in his penthouse apartment. Most likely there is a super model next to him, too. That fucker! Quoth the study from Sleep magazine, poor sleepers 'cognitive function is on par with someone who 's three to seven years older'.
Want proof? Tom Brady! He had a kid last season and fell apart immediately in the playoffs. Would that have happened before the baby? Hell, no! He would have ripped the Jets apart and won Super Bowl number 4 for the Pats. Stupid kid!
What's strange is this same study found the same mental deterioration in people who sleep MORE than nine hours a night. Although, that certainly explains waking up after twelve hours of sleep feeling out of sorts and discombobulated. I always thought it was the 20 beers I drank the night before.
So, the sweet spot is between seven and eight hours. Basically what we've been told since we were kids.
I would argue that it's not just your brain that ages. Take a look at your friends that don't have kids. They still look great! Unless they were fugly to begin with. Having kids doesn't just age your brain, it ages every part of you in fast motion. Sure, it probably all relates to lack of sleep, but it's not just the brain we worry about. Look at 10, who hasn't written in 5 months since the birth of his first child. Hell, he may be institutionalized for all we know. At the very least, his mental capacity has aged three to seven years in the past year. That's not good.
Thankfully, my boys are at the age now where they can get up in the morning while I sleep in. I will admit my brain does seem better and I'm more alert and sharp than I was four years ago. I wonder if your brain repairs itself from those early childhood years? Or does that damage remain for the rest of your life?
Because I still have nights like last where six year old sprints into our bed in the middle of the night due to a nightmare or because he's cold or he just can't fall asleep.
Let's just hope he isn't damaging my mental faculties because of some crazy dream.
Sidenote: Son's crazy dream was explained to me like this: 'Dad, remember that movie when the ghost stole the car and was getting chased by the police? That was my nightmare. The ghost wound up crashing into a wall and disappearing.'
My response: 'First, the only movie that exists like that is in your head. Although, it does sound AWESOME! Second, if there was such a movie I would never let someone as young as you watch it. It sounds a lot like 'Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit' only with a ghost driver.'
Second son, listening to this exchange: 'Wait, how would a ghost drive? Wouldn't his hands go through the wheel? Could he even sit on the seat? I thought ghosts float through things...'
Youngest son: 'Whatever, it was just a dream. Do we have any Corn Pops left?'
Today's distraction: Find out if you're a 'Sleep Slouch'. I most definitely am.