I am not a morning person. At all. When I grew up, my mum was often in front of the sewing machine at 3am creating masterpieces. Dad insisted (and still does) that sunrise was the best part of the day, and that I was missing out if I didn’t get up to see it. This did not rub off on me in any way. I am a heavy sleeper and take a long time to wake, swimming upwards through the layers of sleep until I surface to stagger around like a zombie until someone has inserted breakfast into my slavering mouth.
When I was pregnant with Orion, I was worried about responding to his cries in the middle of the night. I’m good enough to sleep through cat fights, thunderstorms and police sirens, and I was distressed to think my baby might need me and I would be blissfully unaware. Mum reassured me that motherhood would bring about a trasformation, and I would become finely attuned to every rustle of blankets and tiny exhalation of breath. We put the cradle quite literally against the foot of the bed, where my angel was snuggled up safe and warm. And when he cried for me in the middle of the night? My darling husband, who is a lighter sleeper than I, would kick me until I groggily prised an eye open and wondered who was shrieking in my bedroom. My maternal instinct is strong, but apparently my ability to sleep is stronger.
Fast forward four years (and another baby, whose cradle was positioned so close to my face she could have almost poked me in the eye whilst I slept) and Orion has started waking early. At first, he would come into our room at some random time of morning, shake me awake and ask if it was time to get up yet. This was frustrating, but understandable because the sunrise is 6am-ish and the birds all start singing. So for his fourth birthday, we took him to the shops and let him pick a special clock that lights up when it’s time to get out of bed, illuminating the room with a lovely warm yellow light and displaying a cheerful sunrise scene. It also displays digital time if you want them to learn to associate time and getting up, and can be used as a night light with a set of twelve stars that slowly disappear as the hours count down to morning. We set the ‘sunrise’ for 7am and after a couple of mornings, he became used to the idea that he stayed in bed until the sun came up on his clock. It was brilliant. I was able to return to sleeping through my 7am alarm (which I turn off, in my sleep) and having Marshy wake me up at 7.30 to demand why I wasn’t out of bed yet.
It’s been about six months since the fancy clock entered our lives. Slowly, Orion has started getting up before the digital sunrise. In the beginning, it was only a few minutes and I let him hop into bed and snuggle me – as much as a four year old boy snuggles, with all his wiggling legs and tickling fingers. Then it moved to 6.30am and we were patiently escorting him back to bed and reminding him to wait until the sun came up. He would point out that there was only one star left on the count down so it was “almost awake time” but I did my best to assure him that the last star is still very important. In a few days he was getting up at 6.15, and then a few days later 6am.
Even though Marshy is the lighter sleeper, my side of bed is closer to the door. I am routinely dragged to semi consciousness by a small person tickling my cheek, putting a finger in my nose or attempting to uncurl my fingers so he can count them. Sometimes his toenail hurts, or he needs to desperately scratch his bum and only mummy’s finger will do. He requires water, and his drink bottle is empty, even though we filled it the night before. A bird walked across the roof too loudly, or a truck drove by, meaning other people are awake. Or perhaps you forgot how to defeat the train boss on Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon? 6am is an ideal time to recap. And you’re awake now, mummy, aren’t you? Your eyes are open. Maybe we should get out of bed together? What are we doing today? Is Piper awake yet?
If he goes back to bed, the maximum wait time before reappearance is about fifteen minutes. Even though I am a fabulous sleeper, I lack the ability to return to sleep once I am fully awoken. Marshy has the incredible talent of being able to get up, shower, have breakfast, hold several intelligent conversations, play computer games for a bit, then go back to bed and fall instantly asleep for another few hours. I often lie awake in the morning, blinking watery eyes at my son and wishing I had the option of just going back to sleep once I return him to his bed. My options seem limited: get up, and be frowny until it’s time for Coco Pops. Return to bed, lie there with my eyes closed and count down the minutes until Orion gets up because he’s forgotten to remind me that red is his favourite colour. Usually I wait in bed, because I’m stubborn like that. In the last few days, with Christmas bearing down and a To Do list longer than my arm, I’ve rolled out of bed and tackled a couple of tasks which are quiet. Orion thinks it’s a blast, with extra cuddles and early game boy time.
Despite my general frustration, I know it’s not Orion’s fault. His body clock is clearly set differently to mine. At 6am his eyes are twinkling and full of life, and he’s raining kisses on my face or tickling me with a chocolate out of the advent calendar. He is cheerfully alert and even though I’m still dribbling on my pillow, I understand that he isn’t getting up purely to inconvenience my day. In fact, I know I’m not alone and that many other parents experience the same phenomenon. I think the best solution to this problem is to find a kettle that boils silently, so I can make a cup of tea without waking everyone else in the house, and wait for this stage to pass.
What about you? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do your kids sleep in, or leap on you early? How do you manage it?