I used to be that one. The child in the backseat struggling to stay awake late at night as our family returned from a night at a family friend's house. My parents spoke a language that was beyond me and would occasionally pause to see if we were still conscious. I couldn't make out much of what they were saying because my youth had not yet been fully clouded. Still, when we arrived home I would try to remember the ride home, with little hope. The majority of the 30-minute drive was spent in dreams I'll never remember, though the time was so short that I just felt that I closed my eyes for a couple seconds. I couldn't have slept the entire drive home. But how were we back so soon? I'm awake now. I still have something left in me. Why go to sleep? But they insisted and so I did.
Later it would become a little more relaxed. If I wished to stay awake, it was my own discretion. Nothing productive ever really seemed to happen then. Maybe I would see what was on TV but late night wasn't made for a youngster. All the people on the screen spoke the same language my parents spoke and the good channels had since become uninteresting. Some of this just put clouds in my sky of sunshine. Other times I would read only to wake up a few hours later with my bed lamp still on and only having read a few pages at most. Or some mornings I would wake up with no recollection of having turned off the lamp.
I have few memories of how I spent those nights while we were still at the party. What words were exchanged? How did I enjoy myself? Was it really fun? Or if I was allowed to use my time with other matters, what would I have done? I guess that's just a part of childhood: you either get left at home and are cared for by a babysitter or an older sibling or you're dragged to events that you're parents have been invited to and encouraged to have fun but stay out of sight until it's time to leave. What did happen on those nights?
Though it is tempting to state that life was much simpler in the "good old days," it is not wise to think this way. I am no longer the child hoping to stay awake, thinking if I can stay awake for the rest of the ride home, perhaps I will have a few more wakeful hours of fun. I am now the man driving alongside that child as he stares blankly into the faraway galaxies of life not yet clouded. I'm the man who speaks in a language no longer familiar to the child determined to get even just a few more minutes of consciousness before sleep steals him away. Now, I am the man who thinks, "It would be nice to go to sleep now, but my mind has ideas that I'll forget if I do and my hands still have a few chores to do."
Some say adolescence now stretches until nearly the thirties and in some cases that's true. But the clouds also come quickly and without warning. You go off to do something or "discover yourself" and wind up wondering when the storm arrived. Just a few years ago, you could see the sun shining and even feel its warmth but now it's dark. So you draw your own sun and hope it will shine but nothing is like it was. The warmth isn't natural, the brightness seems forced. Still, you must remember, don't reminisce in those days longing to return, because you'll never be able to do so. It's a waste of time, thinking on hopes that can never be realized. You're an adult now, there's no going back.