Here’s Your 1-Gift Guide for Father’s Day
OpinionEditor's Notebook

Here’s Your 1-Gift Guide for Father’s Day

If you snooze through this column, you and Dad will lose on June 17.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

Emory professor Benjamin Reiss says the rigid rules we relate to sleep in children haunt our nights as adults.
Emory professor Benjamin Reiss says the rigid rules we relate to sleep in children haunt our nights as adults.

Father’s Day is coming Sunday, June 17, and although our June 15 issue will mark the occasion, allow me to use this space to provide the ultimate Father’s Day gift guide before it’s too late.

I can’t speak for all dads, but for most of us, anything our spouses or children care to give us is welcome.

The cliché tie? Love it. Breakfast in bed or brunch at a nice or not-so-nice restaurant? Can’t wait. Tickets to the Braves-Padres game, where “chop on” socks are being given away? Wonderful.

But the ideal gift doesn’t cost a penny. No, it’s not a piece of macaroni artwork. It’s simpler than that.

Sleep, that most precious and elusive of commodities.

Simple, but not easy because it’s not just about being allowed to sleep in. It’s also about being able to sleep without being disturbed by stress dreams or worries about a long list of Sunday chores, from mowing the lawn to doing the laundry. Just peaceful, blissful rest.

The gift of sleep is more complicated in the Jacobs home because I have a bad habit of not quite making it to bed many, perhaps most, nights. It’s not that I don’t like our bed, but I also tend to be a night owl.

A little bit of work, a lot of cable TV (especially during baseball season, when there’s always a game going until 1 a.m. or later) and the uncommonly comfortable living room furniture we bought to replace what Irma took away in September, perhaps with a cat or two snuggling against me, and sleep tends to catch me before I stumble down the hall to bed.

I even conked out in the middle of writing this column.

This habit of sleeping on the couch or in the recliner, even when I’m not in my wife’s doghouse, was a source of embarrassment until I read a column by Emory English professor and Congregation Bet Haverim member Benjamin Reiss that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 24.

Reiss is the author of “Wild Nights,” a book about how we do sleep all wrong in the modern world.

His L.A. Times column reminded me of something he said in an AJT article about the book in April 2017.

“The whole idea of a bedroom for a common home is a relatively recent invention,” Reiss said. Until the 19th century, “most homes had rooms with overlapping functions for day and night.”

Like so many things that are off-kilter in the modern world, we can blame the Victorians for deciding that sleeping where others might see you, whether in your own living room or on a public park bench, was offensive.

Reiss’ motivation for his recent column was the situation at Yale in which a student called the campus police on another student who was dozing in a dormitory common area — adding sleeping to the list of innocent things for which black people can expect a police encounter.

The professor does a good job of addressing modern American efforts to ensure no one sleeps in public — except, perhaps, the affluent and those riding on a train or bus. For some reason, nodding off on public transit is seen as a good use of time before or after a hard day’s work.

But I’m less interested in the details than the big picture: Bedrooms aren’t our natural setting. We’re true to ourselves if we simply stop where we are and snooze for a few minutes or a few hours when we’re tired, then continue with whatever we were doing.

Being a dad is a natural part of the human experience, as is sleeping whenever and wherever you can. Why not bring them together this Father’s Day with the gift of sleep?

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