I picked up my son this weekend at wrestling camp, where I found him exhausted but content. At 13, he’s already a pro at independent living, so I didn’t worry too much when the only communication I received from him–with prompting on my end, of course–consisted of two text messages. The first read, “Doing fine, but I have to put my phone away. Love ya.” He followed the next day with, “It’s cool. Tough, but I like it.” Maybe it wasn’t as prolific as I would have liked, but I knew he was okay.

Since he wasn’t talking, I had to rely on the camp brochure to know what he was doing. The camp featured a tough schedule of extended workouts and practices, commencing at 6am and shutting down for the night with lights out at 10:30pm. Even the limited free time revolved around sportsmanship, when the kids could play basketball or watch inspirational sports movies. The discipline of it all sounded perfect for a 13-year-old boy looking to train hard.

Only one thing made me shudder: the sleeping arrangements. Because the camp took place at a high school, the luxury of dorm rooms and beds didn’t exist. Instead, all the campers–104, to be exact–brought sleeping bags and pillows and sprawled en masse on the wrestling mats in the gym each night. Miserable, thinks my spoiled self.

Naturally, when I arrived to take him home, I asked Jake if he had minded sleeping with the others in an open gym. I wanted to know if he had been able to get much rest. Yeah, he said, it was fine. That surprised me, until he added, One kid got up and wandered around a lot. He must not have been working very hard during the day, because I don’t know how anyone could have trouble sleeping if he had really been working. I was so tired that I fell asleep every night before they turned off the lights.

What my son threw out as an offhanded statement made an impact on me. I hope that someday he realizes the true profundity of his words. There are many reasons a person might not sleep well, but a full day of going all-out isn’t one of them.

Work hard or play hard, but give it your all. You’ll sleep better.

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