I find that the older I get, the harder it is for me to concentrate. I’ve always been a bit prone to aimless mental flights of fancy. But it seems like that problem seems to get worse and worse as I approach the dreaded (or not so much) age of 30. I feel like it gets harder and harder for me to concentrate on things that are important. Or maybe it’s just that I have a lot more important things to concentrate on now that I’m thoroughly into adulthood.
See, when I was a kid, I didn’t have a whole lot of responsibilities. I pretty much just went to school, and that was it. It wasn’t a huge deal if I zoned out in class and didn’t pay any attention to the teacher. Sure I might have gotten a slightly worse grade on a test or whatever, but who cared? (Other than my parents, of course.)
Even after I graduated from high school, the first job I had didn’t require a great deal of concentration, so it was easy for me to just zone out most of the time and think about other things. I had no responsibilities outside my job either. I lived with my parents and I had no wife or kids or anything. So there wasn’t much I had to concentrate on.
Now, however, I have a wife and two kids. Plus, I stay home alone with the two kids while my wife works. So I have a lot of responsibilities, and a lot of things that I need to concentrate on. I find it all a bit overwhelming, to be honest. When my son asks for a bagel, and then he asks for a drink of water, and then another bagel, and then a drink of milk, all in rapid succession, and my daughter is screaming her little head off somewhere in there because she wants a drink of milk too, and all of this is happening while I’m trying to eat lunch or clean the kitchen or something… it’s a little hectic.
As all of this is going on, my brain is desperately trying to withdraw to it’s own little world and think about iPads or Dark Lords or some other random nerdy thing. But I can’t just let my brain withdraw to Nerdvana while my son is asking for something to eat. So I’m constantly struggling to keep myself focused on the here and now.
Exacerbating this problem is the fact that, as a parent, I get a lot less sleep than I was used to as a non-parent. As a teenager, I used to stay up until 2:00 in the morning or so, and then I wouldn’t get up until noon or later the next day. I mean, sure, I had school and stuff, so I couldn’t do that EVERY day, but once I graduated from high school, I could, especially after I dropped out of college. I had no job and I didn’t go to school, so I slept ALL the time. And then when I finally did get a job, about a year after I graduated, I was working the night shift. So I’d get home around 6:30 in the morning, go to bed at 7 or 8, and then sleep until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. As a night person who hates and fears sunlight, this was absolutely wonderful. And then I got married.
My wife is a beautiful and amazing woman, but she has never been one to sleep in until noon. So one of the first unpleasant things I discovered about marriage was that I was no longer going to get to sleep in until noon, because my wife would wake up at 8 or so, and then hound me incessantly until I got up as well. I guess I can’t blame her. I mean, what’s the point of having a husband if he sleeps all the time? In any case, the amount of sleep I lost by having a wife was nothing compared to the amount of sleep I lost by having a baby.
Anyone out there who has kids of their own probably knows what I mean when I say that, for the first few months after my son was born, I didn’t think I would ever get to sleep again. For someone who really needs a good 10 to 12 hours of sleep to feel really rested, getting a couple of hours here and there was a really, really hard thing for me to adjust to. Even now, when my kids sleep through the night, the days of sleeping until noon are definitely a thing of the distant past. You can’t exactly tell your 4-year-old or your 1-year-old to go back to bed when they wake up ready to go at 6 o’clock in the morning.
So more responsibilities and less sleep means that I feel like I wander around in a daze most of the time. I’ve started drinking coffee, which helps, but coffee doesn’t give me several extra hours of sleep or feed my children for me.
There are, of course, still a few moments throughout the average day when I can still just let my mind drift. I prize those precious few moments , like when I’m driving my son to school, or right before I fall asleep at night. But it’s almost like I’m losing the ability to just think about random stuff. Whenever I have a few minutes where I don’t really have anything I have to concentrate on, it’s like my mind just goes blank. Kind of a shame, but I guess it’s all part of growing up.
And so, like all of my posts where I whine about some personal issue that I have, the ultimate lesson here is that I just need to learn to deal with it. I’m not a kid anymore. I have responsibilities. I can’t just zone out and think about random nerdy things. Maybe someday when I’m old and stuck in a nursing home I can go back to just zoning out and thinking all the time. Until then, I should probably go feed my screaming children.
P.S. That last line is a joke. My kids are asleep as I write these words.