I am not a morning person. I know they exist—people who delight in watching the sun creep up over the dark edges of the world, people who savor those moments when starlight is replaced by sunlight, people who run on treadmills while the rest of us sleep.
In the morning especially, it turns out that I really like sleep.
Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?
Sadly, sleep is completely incompatible with motherhood. Babies give their little middle fingers to clocks. I have heard that there are some children who sleep in. Mine never have. That’s not true—one of the kids really does like to sleep late. Helpfully, the rest of the kids generally wake him up with their “pitter patter of little feet” that sounds a hell of a lot like a bowling alley.
These children wake up insanely early, so much so that I wonder what I have done wrong as a parent. They demand things of me, like foodstuffs and hair braids and roleplaying exercises where I am the witch AGAIN and school supplies that should have been purchased days ago. They do all this, and express the full range of human emotion, before coffee has even been brewed, much less touched my lips—which, I’m pretty sure, is a violation of the Geneva Convention. And one of life’s karmic indignities is that I am told that when that happy day comes when they finally all figure out that normal human beings sleep in, they will have broken my old body into submission and I will be incapable of sleeping late.
Arguably, my under-eye circles are genetic. But I know they are little sad gray gifts from my children with their relentless “let’s beat the sunrise” waking patterns. But the eyebags—really more eye-suitcases—are the least of my problems. My main problem is that when I am tired, I am grouchy. OK, let’s be honest: I’m really mean.
It is incredibly upsetting to start the day being incredibly unpleasant to the people you love. And I know this on a rational level, and yet I find I cannot help myself. Even when I am on a good run, one little thing can send me over the edge (“I’M SORRY I STIRRED THE CHOCOLATE MILK! WHAT DID YOU EVER DO TO DESERVE SUCH A BAD PARENT?”)
(Ironically, it is exhausting to be angry as well.)
I wanted to find a way out. I was so sick of all the crap. I was sick of being mad. So I turned on the music.
I did it at first in the hope that it would drown out their little voices telling me simultaneously that they a) DIDN’T WANT SYRUP ON THEIR PANCAKE THEY WANTED IT ON THE EYEBALLS OF THE MONKEY PLATE! b) FORGOT TO TELL ME BUT IT IS CRAZY HAT DAY AT CAMP TODAY c) spilled the chocolate milk all over the forms I’d just filled out for school.
I just turned on the music in the kitchen, synched up with my phone. I had no idea what would come next.
All of my daughters got out of their seats and started dancing. Some were good dancers. Others were not. But they were smiling and laughing and having fun. It was all so unexpected and happy. I decided to join them. And the baby watched from her highchair and shrieked and laughed and threw her pancake on the floor. And it was good.
“Again! Again!” And I put on another song. And we did it again. And again. And again. Every day.
Look, it beats yelling and getting frustrated. I am racking up the steps on my FitBit. And now they know—they have to eat their whole breakfasts and clear their plates in order to get the Morning Dance Party.
And it is awesome, for them and for me. And now we start the day with fun instead of fury.
And if we could just push back the start time maybe an hour, it would be perfect.