The Virtues of Fatherhood 4 – Tiredness


May 15, 2015 by Dadinator

There was a time when I stayed awake all night walking through the bush. I don’t know when I slept, but it was under the stars in springtime. I recall the feeling of it, the happy satisfied exhaustion that took my mind and body and put me in the “zone”.

I thought I was tired.

There have been weeks of my life that have been swallowed up by theatre productions. Bump-ins, rehearsals, tech-runs last minute trips to the shops to get a prop or costume. Late nights and early mornings as we struggled to cobble together enough stuff to re-create a world on stage and convince people that we were other beings.

I thought I was tired.

There have been nights when I have been out till the sun came up, dancing, drinking, talking, shouting. They came and went and in the bleary and too-white light of the morning my eyes cracked open and my head throbbed. I wondered over hazy details of the night before as I slipped on a shirt and walked to work.

I thought I was tired.

Today I love with an intensity I have never known. Stronger than it was yesterday, but weaker than it will be tomorrow. My thoughts turn to the future, to providing and to protection. My nights are filled with only fitful sleeping as kids cry out or thoughts play on my mind. Children kick and struggle their way to sleep beside me, frosty hands cling to my neck.

And finally, I think I am truly tired.

But then I look at The Mamanator…. Permanent dark rings under her eyes as she rues the fact that she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in almost 4 years. And what, I think I’m tired?

But I am.

I am tired. A tiredness that penetrates my bones. A tiredness that hangs over my eyes. A tiredness that makes the air feel more viscous, like I’m moving through oil. A tiredness that has become the default. Somehow it has become normal to wake 3 times a night, even if the kids don’t.

Tiredness is hard to pin down, hard to articulate and hard to enunciate. And it is hard to write about. What is it? A lack of sleep? A lack of energy? A lack of brain-functions like concentration and memory? It permeates your life. Every bit of it. You don’t get acute outbreaks of tiredness unlike anger of fear. It digests you slowly, breaks you down into your simpler elements. It makes you more prone to moments of weakness. It’s like an amplifier. It makes other noises louder without generating them itself. And the noises it amplifies are usually not the pleasant ones – although I have collapsed into a fit of exhausted laughter more than once since having children.

Tiredness stretches you thin. It drains you of your reserves. Of energy. Of brain power. Of metaphors and clichés.

But tiredness makes you ration your concentration and your energy. You have to mete it out carefully. Your reduced brain space only hold so much information. Your mind can only grapple with so many dilemmas at once and your plans can only be so elaborate.

It can be god awful. I have re-run errands multiple times because I went out to buy milk and bought everything but milk. I have turned the house upside down looking for a key, a pen, a form or a letter. I have forgotten names, places, missed appointments. And that was before kids (I am absent-minded… it’s gotten worse….).

Now it’s even worse. In the meantime my bulwark against my own forgetfulness – The Mamanator – finds herself losing things too.

Stripped down we use what precious active consciousness we have on what is important.

Do we direct our feeble minds to debates about the universe? Do we dwell on the slippery slope society seems to be on? Do we solve the worlds problems? Do we shake our fists at damn teenagers?

No. We focus on our kids. We do. “Bugger it, I have 45 minutes of active thinking time available to me today” says my brain to itself “I’m going to enjoy it, let’s hit that trampoline!”.

And we do. And we have adventures as Marlin, Nemo and Nemo’s sister “Tinky” (The Lad made her up….). We become a pile of rocks or a motorbike. We find a way to bounce our 20 month old daughter comfortably on a trampoline using an exercise ball. We find the energy to fling her in the air. We push them around on bikes, we kiss scratched knees. We romp through the backyard to feed chickens. We laugh, we sing we cry.

And in those moments, because we’re too tired to care, worries about money, about housework, about firewood, about where you left your damn gloves, about petrol prices, about climate change and more just fade away. For a moment – because you’re brain in its exhausted and myopic state just cannot be buggered thinking about all that right now. It knows what’s important. It know’s why you worry about all those things. They’re in front of you, and they want you to haul your tired bottom into the back yard and run with them for a while.

And you do. And then you get tired…..

And we burn what precious little wick we have left for our kids. And sure, the house is a mess and the blog post is unwritten and the dolls never got packed up… But in the haze of exhaustion it just doesn’t seem to matter so much. It’s amazing how so much stuff just fads into the background when you’re forced to let it.

And then we sleep. And wake up. And sleep. And wake up. And then our kids get us up at 5:20am every freaking morning and ask us if it’s Saturday yet and if they can have pancakes.


I’m not sure if this has been clear. You see, I’m tired. It’s hard to make sense when you’re tired. Especially when you’ve got to be up early the next day, and you know you’ll be up a few times through the night. But that’s okay, I’m sure I’ll find the energy to play. Somehow I always do.

Here’s a link to the next post in the series. Part 5: Love.


One thought on “The Virtues of Fatherhood 4 – Tiredness

  1. Beautiful post Seamus! And I feel for you. Little E has now begun sleeping through the nights, but we are about to have number two arrive so those potential nights of sleep are about to evaporate. Oh well. Sleep when I’m dead, or they move out, whichever happens first.

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