No matter what time my 5-year-old son goes to sleep at night, it’s inevitable: Come roughly 5:45-6:00 a.m., he’s up every morning like clockwork.
Case in point: The other week, we had him up until 10:00PM after a family gathering that ran late. Since that’s a solid two hours past his typical bedtime, we figured he’d sleep in a little the following morning, but no–I’m pretty sure I heard him rustling about by 6:01.
But while my son’s perpetually early wakeups used to be a major problem for me (and my husband, for that matter), lately, they’ve evolved into a non-issue of sorts.
Back in the day, my son had a habit of coming into my room every morning and waking me up with a simultaneous hug and demand. Often, said demand came in the form of needing an immediate breakfast, even though I’d insist there was no way he was that hungry right away. Other times, my son would want me to get out of bed and keep him company in his play area downstairs, even if that meant curling up in a ball on the floor and half-watching him complete a puzzle while desperately attempting to snag a few extra Z.
But something changed in my son a few months ago, and ever since then, he’s stopped coming into my room first-thing as a matter of course. Though he still does it on occasion (weekends, naturally), usually, he’ll spend some time reading quietly in his room before heading downstairs to play. Other times, he’ll go down to his play area and do some coloring, or fiddle with a building set. Because he’s mature enough to understand the concept of being quiet while everyone else is asleep, I’ll often wake up a solid 30 minutes or more after he’s already been up and find him deeply engrossed in whatever activity he’s chosen.
Here’s the thing though: While my son’s newfound independence is a positive step in theory, in many ways, it makes me very sad. Don’t get me wrong–I appreciate the extra sleep. A lot. At the same time, I miss my early morning hug. Yes, as I mentioned, there was usually a price to be paid for that hug, but I got it nonetheless.
And the hug represents something bigger. In some ways, it makes me sad to realize that my son no longer needs me the way he used to. Sure, it’s natural and healthy for kids to grow increasingly independent over time, but seeing my son tend to his own needs in the morning without help just drives home the point that he’s no longer my little baby. And I miss that.
Just the other day, my son barged into my room at 5:59 a.m., precisely 16 minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off. It turns out his tablet had run out of juice, and he wanted to use mine to finish the learning app he’d been working on. I asked him for a quick hug before he ran off, and he reluctantly obliged. And then, I rolled over and tried to savor those final few minutes of rest, all the while wishing that hug would’ve lasted just a bit longer.