Mornings are a gift. Do you think of them that way? I didn’t used to. But the kids are sometimes catatonic when I get home in the evening, so morning is often my only real time with them. I’m learning to love it.
We are early risers. I fought it for years, begging and pleading to be allowed just a few more precious moments of shut eye. Occasionally the kids would oblige, briefly. Ninety seconds later they’d be back from their own beds, twice as eager to go downstairs.
“Do you know how early it is?” I croak. You might as well ask who they’re voting for. You’d get the same blank look.
So I’ve resigned myself. For the next few years, I’ll be getting up well before the proverbial cock crows.
Most mornings I’m wakened by my middle child, Magdalena. She is six. Getting out of bed is what she was born to do. She is blessed to have discovered her true calling at an early age. There are other things she does well, and other things she loves to do, but rising and shining is the trigger clause of her contract with the world.
I sometimes imagine that Magdalena wakes to the sound of urgent voices whispering only to her. “Get up!” they say. “Get up! Dora and Elmo are eating your breakfast and playing with your toys! You’re missing everything! Get up!”
Most of the time we let Magdalena into our bed. Strictly speaking, this is something you are not supposed to do, as it rewards the child for being an early bird and provides an incentive for tomorrow’s bad behavior. But bitter experience has taught me that it’s either the bed or the breakfast table, so we pull back the covers and let her climb in. As she is mostly elbows and knees, it isn’t long before one of us gives in and takes her downstairs.
My son usually isn’t far behind. Paddy is an American boy of the 4 year-old variety, which means there is no middle gear in his transmission. He has two speeds: out cold and full blast. His eyes open at first light, his naked feet hit the cold floor, and in an instant he is by your side in the kitchen, bleary-eyed and demanding to know, “Wass for breffest, huh Dad?”
“You have a choice,” I say. “Dirt Flakes or Mini Worms.”
“No, Dad, yer juss been silly. Wass the reeeeeel breffest, huh?”
Clara, the 8-year old, is the only one to have figured out what every parent knows to be true: sleeping late is its own reward. At her age, lounging in bed while your siblings eat their breakfast is at least as good an option as being awake and having them annoy you while you eat yours.
At the table, I cut bananas onto their cereal and ask what they dreamt about. Mostly they don’t remember. I ask them what they’re looking forward to about the day ahead. Mostly they can’t answer. They are madly devoted to the here and now. Yesterday means nothing. Who reads old news? Tomorrow is a non-entity to a child. Why worry about it when today is already here?
I watch them eat. They see me watching and smile with mouths full. What a blessing to be so present. I have many dreams I wish I could forget. And there are many mornings when I positively dread the day ahead. But being with them for an hour or two is tonic enough to beat back my mild misanthropy.
No matter how tired I am in the morning, or how much I wish I could stay in bed just a few minutes more, I summon the strength to rise. I know one day I’ll be eating breffest in a glooming peace with silence to spare. On that day I’ll wish I had a little noodge to drag me out of bed before dawn, to ask me who puts the milk in the carton or why don’t spoons have names?
As Yogi Berra said, it gets late early around here. I don’t want to miss a minute of it.