I have a history of not waking up on time. The problem started when I was a teenager, and everyone thought it was just a phase. “She’ll grow out of it,” they said. “What teenager gets up early anyway?”
By my 20s, however, it was clear that I am, by nature, not a morning person. I went through several alarm clocks trying to find the perfect one. Nothing worked. The only solution seemed to be setting an alarm 30 minutes earlier than I actually had to wake up. Then I could hit snooze six different times.
This greatly annoyed my then-new Naval-Academy-trained husband, who can wake up to the faintest of wristwatch alarms at 4 a.m. if he has to. At our first apartment in Florida, Dustin liked to wake me up by saying, “Sarah, hurry! Wake up! There’s a roach crawling across your face.” Even this didn’t always work.
Once, Dustin gave me a natural light alarm clock for Christmas. He was so optimistic! The clock promised to slowly lighten the room, mimicking a sunrise, and boasted the sound of quietly chirping birds that would rise in song and chatter the longer the alarm went ignored. “This will be a really peaceful way to wake up,” Dustin said.
And it was peaceful for me, because I never heard the birds or noticed the light. Dustin however, would crawl over me, cursing under his breath, and smack the alarm’s off button. “How can you not hear those birds?” he would yell. “And the lights? It’s like an aviary in here.”
When I had my first child at age 24, everyone thought my sleepy-morning days were over. No more hitting snooze. No more asking people not to talk to me for 30 minutes and until I had eaten my morning cereal in total silence. A baby, they said, would not put up with these things.
And, as fate would have it, my first baby is, and continues to be, a person who does his best thinking before the sun comes up. Unlike most children who do their homework after school, Ford saves his to do at 5 the next morning. When Ford was a baby, I could hear my mother and grandmother laughing at me, even though they were several states away.
However, an infant doesn’t ask you to talk in the morning. An infant doesn’t expect you to be cheerful. Indeed, an infant usually takes his first nap by 9 or 10 a.m. I could manage this.
And I did.
My next two babies, Owen and Lindell, are not morning people. They are either blessed or cursed (take your pick) with the ability to pretend mornings don’t even happen. In fact, until last week, Lindell wasn’t aware that the sun rises. He had seen it set, but it had always just been there again, like a light left on, when he opened his eyes 20 minutes before school.
(Here’s where I blame the new dog.)
Sparky wakes up at 5 a.m. My morning watch person, Ford, lets Sparky out, and in due time, I hear the thump of paws climbing the stairs outside my bedroom. My new (successful) alarm clock: a wet dog nose and bad breath.
Since we got Sparky in October, my routine has been to come downstairs, put out the dog food bowl, and fall back asleep on the living room couch. Meanwhile, Ford does his homework and reads his books. Last week, however, for reasons I will never understand, Lindell woke up at 5 a.m., too. He wanted waffles. Then he wanted Cheerios. While Lindell slurped his milk, Ford introduced him to the world of morning. “You’ll see the sun rise out the window soon,” Ford said.
Lindell dropped his spoon. “The sun rises?” he asked.
“Yep, and you’ll start to hear birds, too,” Ford said.
I worried that Ford was making this sound like too much fun.
And sure enough, later that day, Lindell said, “Can we do that middle-of-the-night thing together again?”
“What middle-of-the-night thing?”
“You know, where Ford and I watch the sun and you make us breakfast?”
“That’s not a good routine, Lindell,” I said.
“I kind of liked having company,” Ford said.
“So can we do it, Mom?”
The next morning, I woke up to Sparky’s breath and Lindell’s smiling face at the side of my bed. “Time to do that thing where we sit in the dark, Mom,” he said.
“How about we sleep in the dark, Lindell?”
Two minutes later, I was making waffles and waiting for the sun to rise.
“I like our new routine,” Lindell said.
I didn’t answer. I was still half asleep.