Coffee

Unwittingly, I was doomed by genetics to be hard hit by the parenting game. Due to a DNA mix-up, from the point of conception, I was not equipped to deal with being a father unless I was under the influence of stimulants. I blame this on my mother.

My wife, on the other hand, a morning person, was primed for having children. She always went to bed at a reasonable time–more reasonable then than now, actually–and she always made sure to catch a nap in the afternoon whenever she could. When I first met her, she rarely drank coffee, and though she had a drip machine, she didn’t know how to use it.

I found that quaint. At least I was able to teach her how to do something in the kitchen. Btw, I will start trading this week so I think its a good idea to buy the best day trading books today.

What about me? Ha. How do I put this? Late to bed late to rise? To say the least. Some people drink two or three cups of coffee a day? I’ve been known to drink two or three pots a day. Afternoon naps for me meant that if I accidentally fell asleep on the couch, I would wake up with a nasty headache, poor digestion and the vague notion that it was Tuesday when in reality it was Wednesday. The only way I could catch a decent night’s sleep was to fall asleep at my normal time–after midnight–and not be disturbed by anything until at least ten in the morning. And the only way I could get a decent day’s work done was by drugging myself awake with caffeine and nicotine.

To make matters worse, once I was awake–no matter when I was awakened–I couldn’t get back to sleep. This may sound like a contradiction to what I just described above, but hey, we’re like that aren’t we?

You can imagine what this meant when my daughter woke me up for the first time at 2 A.M. After rocking and cuddling her for an hour, she went to sleep. I put her back into her crib, took five minutes to pull my trapped arm out from beneath her head, and went and made a pot of coffee. And thus began my downfall.

If this sounds at all familiar, read on. I have some important news that might save your life.

Coffee is not good for you. It does not help you do anything. The only reason it’s OK to drink coffee is that cigarette smoking makes you a pariah, if you live in the United States, where society has only decided to change stimulants. Trust me. Forty, fifty years from now coffee will go the way of the cigarette. They’ll do a bunch of research, most of it conducted at first by the coffee grower’s associations, and then some independent body will figure out that coffee causes anti-immune disorders, and then everyone will be suing Juan Valdez because he made it seem as if it were OK to drink coffee.

If you do any amount of research on coffee, you will discover that you could basically say anything about it–whether positive or negative–and then find a study or a statement by a doctor or some other scientific person to back it up. So I am going to give you the lowdown on why I think coffee is your enemy, if you are trying to parent a child while under its influence. Don’t ask me for research. I do research, but I don’t flaunt it, ok?

Coffee robs you of your stamina.

When you have kids, you just can’t be impatient. IF you care, of course. Because kids can be the most annoying thing to ever cross your tired strung-out path: you can’t hit them, you can’t yell at them (too much), you can’t reason with them (as long as they’re under 35 years of age), and you can’t really leave them, at least not for extended periods of time, until they’re 18 or so, when you’re no longer legally responsible for them. My daughter is six years old, and it still takes ten minutes to get her shoes on in the morning. Impatience does not help with this at all. No matter of imploding or exploding will help. You need stamina, and contrary to what you might think, coffee takes that away.

Do I know parents who aren’t impatient with their kids? Sure I do, and I hate them. Pleasantly grumpy is somewhere between angelic bliss and a pot before leaving the house. I prefer that.

Coffee makes non-linear thinking impossible.

It’s great if you have to work late, or early, or study, or whatever, and you have to concentrate on doing one single thing. That one single thing may consist of a plethora of details, it may involve zillions of steps and the knowledge contained in several different higher degrees, but it is still one single thing. When you become a parent, you will never do one single thing during one parcel of time ever again. Ever. People who tell you they’re going to take a year off to finish their dissertation and watch the kids are fooling themselves, and you, if you or they believe it. It is simply impossible. Why? Because in order to do something like that you have to be able to concentrate on one single thing during one parcel of time.

This is what is called linear thinking. What is required is non-linear thinking.

What do I mean by this? When you have children, you are constantly distracted. It’s not the same as multitasking, which actually involves a series of items requiring linear thinking. Multitasking is when you perform several tasks at once, jumping from one to the next without first finishing one before you get to the next one. The reason it’s not the same is because with multitasking, or at least the way that I multitask at work, for the most part the multitasker is in control. You can regulate how much time you spend on each task before moving on to the next one. You can determine for yourself which one you are going to do first, and which one you are going to do second, etc.

With kids you don’t have that choice. You may have five things to do around the house — pay a bill, fill the dishwasher, clean up the bloody footprints–but once a child comes into the picture you have to stop, right then, and assist the child, before going back to what you were doing before. Coffee throws a monkey wrench into the whole works, because the more coffee you drink the more likely you are to be trying to focus on one specific task. Or you have task 1, task 2, task 3, etc., and you don’t want to deviate from that sequence because you know if you do you will forget something.

Kids don’t care if your hands are all bloody. They want a grilled cheese. They just fell down the stairs. They need help wiping. You have to get up off the floor, do a perfunctory hand clean, and assist that child. Then you find when you return to the task you’ve completely forgotten steps 2-5 in the sequence. This is why everything in my home is half-finished.

Why the big deal about the coffee? Your chances of getting irritable and impatient with one of your children, or your spouse, while intoxicated on caffeine skyrocket when you’ve had too much. You have to be able to flow, moving with the driftwood, around or up and over the rocks depending not upon your own mettle but on the nature of the stream itself. You have to turn and smile, change a diaper, wash your hands, go polish your shoes, stop in the middle, wash hands again, get a glass of juice, put another few plates in the dishwasher, all of that. Without screaming your head off. It’s not so much that it’s damaging to your children or your own soul. It’s just that it doesn’t change anything.

Coffee grabs a series of synapses and says: THIS is what we are doing now. And when you get unnerved and impatient, when you get irritable with your kids and start snapping at them, this is not a good thing. I’m not talking about morals or child rearing philosophies here, I’m talking about job satisfaction. If you’ve got anything like a conscience, you will feel bad when you are irritable and impatient with them.

Most likely they won’t care, unless it’s a constant thing. They’re much more resilient emotionally than we are. But you will feel bad. And in your lucid moments, when the roar of the din has been reduced to a brief respite just after bedtime, you will feel that you’ve missed something. It will not allow you to go gently into that good night. So look into cutting back on coffee or cutting it out completely.

I cut back. I’m down to a pot a day. It helps. What also helps is giving up the first cup of the day and replacing it with green tea. Green tea has the benefit of containing caffeine, thus keeping you awake, while also providing a calming effect. It’s the perfect beverage, full of antioxidants and cheer, and most certainly it will last longer than java.

Buy Sencha green tea, if you can get it. Sencha green tea kills cancer. Just ask the Japanese. They’re the longest-lived people in the world.