‘At least you have your evenings.’ This is what the parents of children who sleep until a civilised hour say to me, when I reveal the early rising habits of my kids. ‘Swings and roundabouts,’ they say, while mentally punching the air and looking forward to their leisurely wake-up the following day.
The thing is, I do love my evenings, and it’s great that the children go to sleep early. But I would also love some mornings, too. To clarify: some mornings, filled with sleep.
My kids wake up early so consistently, that on the freakish occasions when they are still sleeping at 7am, I dart wild-eyed into their bedrooms, heart pounding, convinced that something dreadful has happened. And wake them up. And then hate myself.
There was that one time (ONE) when I went downstairs and had a cup of tea while the children were still sleeping. I was so excited I tweeted about it.
But generally speaking, phrases like ‘waking the kids up for school’, and the concept of ‘before the kids get up’ are so nonsensical to me, they might as well be fzbhdlj 6tyu4 ghhrgjgh.
Our darling daughter would, as a baby, wake up at such not-the-morning times as 5am, 4.45am, even, for a while, 4 sodding 30am. Our boy has rarely plumbed those depths. But these days, aged 4 and 7, they deliver a solid 6am/6.15am wake-up most days. They might sleep for a while longer after the initial peacock shriek of MUMMMMMY or DADDDDY, but not without several grumpy interventions from me and their dad, for wee trips, water administering, whispered threats and begging.
So, with seven (SEVEN. I’m tired.) years experience of early rising under my belt, what have I learned about how to combat it? My unscientific study of my friends, Facebook and the internet reveals the following methods:
Screen time. As most mums and dads will attest, screens are our friends, and sometimes co-parents. I know loads of parents who, when woken at the arsecrack of dawn, rummage for an ipad and throw it in the general direction of their kid’s bedroom, or send older children downstairs to binge on cartoons. But screens are also our magic wand, our get-out-of-jail-for-free-card, the thing we can depend on in our hour of most need. And that hour, for me, even more so than the early morning, tends to be just before dinner. So I’m not going to use up all my screen ‘lives’ on morning telly, and we’ve never used this particular technique.
Gimmicks. (She says, with the bitter taste of regret in her mouth). Oh, the money I wasted on stupid shit that did not work. Blackout curtains (made room dark, did not make child sleep longer, resulted in us whacking shins on the corner of toddler bed when stumbling into pitch black room at 5am). The Gro Clock (limited ‘success’, if pushing wake-up time from 5.45am to 6.15am is your definition of success). A weird plush seahorse which played soothing music when you pressed its tummy (WHY did I think that one would work?). These now gather dust in a forgotten cupboard, along with my glowing complexion and the concept of a ‘lie in’ (here I do have to note, in the interests of fairness to G, that I do sometimes get a lie-in, and those lie-ins are golden).
Taking turns. This seems eminently sensible. Several couples I know simply take turns to get up with their early riser/s. We don’t do it, because, meh. Once you’re awake, you’re awake. And it’s kind of nice, you know, when we give in to the fact that we ARE awake, and the two kids get into our bed, and if it’s the weekend, G goes downstairs to make a cup of tea and bring a snack up for the children. And there’s just us four, and the chatty ramblings of the wide awake children and the half-asleep mumblings of me and G, and the dawn creeping around the curtains, and the faint vibration of the neighbours silently screaming into their pillows.
Make the most of it. I know one person (hi, Leah!), who, from what I can gather, rises with her small twins at whatever hour they wake, does some yoga, reads, crafts and makes delicious baked goods, powered by good coffee. Unfortunately I am far too much of a grump in the mornings to achieve such feats.Leah, I salute you. And please send me some muffins, thanks.
So what’s to be done? Well, my extensive studies have revealed there is only one solution: give in, and go to bed early.
The problem is, once the kids are in bed, there are so many constructive things to do with my time, like (not) doing life admin, (not) planning my dazzling future, (not) writing the book I’ve been working on for six years and (mostly) watching Peep Show on Netflix. So while an early bedtime is always the aim, it is not often achieved.
So I guess the only thing left to do is to look forward to the halcyon mornings that more seasoned parents tell me about, when the kids are teenagers and we will have to forklift them out of bed. (It does seem rather unfair, though, that getting your mornings back coincides with losing sleep over cyber-bullying, teenage pregnancy, drugs etc. Might there be some magic window during which they will sleep late, but also be peachily innocent and never leave the house alone?).
But I have a sneaking sense that when those days arrive, I’ll look back at these mornings, and remember how it felt to have a pyjama-ed boy, warm as a hot water bottle, tucked into the crook of my knees at 6.15am; or how the best sound ever is of two hungry kids munching on their crumpets or satsuma segments, while we blink into the steam from our cups of tea, and try to pretend it’s not pitch black outside. I’ll wake up early, before they do, and have a quiet cup of tea, and they won’t get into our bed anymore. And I’ll miss it, I know I will.
And then I’ll smile hugely, pick up the vacuum cleaner, and make just as much noise as I possibly can, right outside their bedroom doors.