Giving thanks for quiet, blissful moments in the morning
I've always been a morning person, but never quite like this.
That's why it's 5:30 am on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, and I'm wide awake.
My first bit of time off since starting a new job, and I'm wide awake.
One husband and three children snoring away, and I'm wide awake.
There's nothing but the occasional sound of the furnace to disturb me as I sit writing by the glow of the baby monitor. It is by far my favorite time of day.
In the years B.C. (Before Children) the early mornings consisted of a cup of tea, a daily devotional with my breakfast and a quick workout before heading to work.
One child only changed the routine a bit. Even before he was sleeping through the night, even when I was working crazy hours and only had a few to sleep, I almost always found a way to get up early and get that time to myself before getting to the rest of the day.
Two children made it tougher. Two children and a collection of part-time jobs that had to be stuffed into whatever free moments could be found made it next to impossible, but still, most days the morning routine remained in place.
Now, with three children and a new full-time job, mornings are a little bit different, but I cherish them all the more. Forget about "bright and early": two mornings each week the mere goal of getting to work by 9 a.m. requires a visit to the Dark Side.
It goes something like this: get up at 5 a.m., wolf down that tea and breakfast, gobble up a devotional, fly through the shower, throw on some clothes, nurse the baby, wake and dress and feed the two older ones, change clothes because inevitably baby's radar has detected the presence of dry-clean-only clothing and thus has spit-up, get everyone in the car, go back into the house to change a diaper because baby's radar has detected the need to leave the house and thus has pooped, drive 20 minutes in the wrong direction to preschool/daycare, give at least four rounds of goodbye hugs/kisses to each of three children, drive 45 miles to work, make milk for baby in the car, walk three city blocks to office carrying a laptop, a purse, a lunch bag and a breast pump to arrive at my desk and "start" my day. Phew.
But in the midst of what may seem like chaos, there are moments of bliss. Moments that make it all worthwhile, moments that I savor so deeply I actually wake up even earlier so as not to miss.
First, the baby. My sweet littlest little one is already five months old, and nine nights out of 10 will sleep through the night. He no longer "needs" that early morning feeding and would sleep right through it if I didn't get him up.
Maybe he doesn't need it, but I'm just not quite ready to give it up. So on those mornings I creep into his room and take a few minutes to just stand watching in silent awe.
As big as he seems the rest of the day, in the early morning hours he's just a tiny spot in the middle of his crib — a perfect little bundle of warmth and love, curled up on his belly with his arms tucked underneath. Every once in a while he lets out a little sigh or a tiny giggle and I pray that sweet dreams are filling up his little head.
I pick him up and hold him close, trying to memorize the feeling of his fuzzy little head on my chest and his tiny fingers wrapped around my thumb. If I can just hold onto that feeling, I tell myself, it will get me through the day. Maybe if we both hold each other tightly enough, we can stock up on the love we need to weather the time apart.
Once he is fed and back asleep, it's on to the next child: my oldest, my 4-going-on-12 year old. He, too seems far too big for his age during the day, too grown up, too mature, but in the early morning hours, the proportions seem to fall back in place. It's amazing to me that this big boy with his long, lean limbs that stretch across the bed was once a tiny bundle in the middle of his crib.
Sometimes when I come in, he's all askew: arms on one side of the bed, legs in two different directions, head nowhere near the pillow and Thomas blanky tangled up in a heap on the floor. I can't help but laugh at the jumbled sight. But most of the time he's a bigger version of the boy in the room down the hall: flipped on his tummy, arms tucked underneath him, breathing slowly in and out.
We share a special wake-up song, some silly tickle time, a few snuggles for good measure. I hug him close before he goes to brush his teeth, inhaling his sweet smell. Maybe if I hold him close enough he'll stay my little boy forever.
Last it's on to wake a tiny princess from her sleep. My 2-year-old ball of sass: she is funny, she is feisty and she is SO 2 years old.
But in the mornings all I can see are her tiny little toes peeking out from the bottom of the blanket and a wild mane of hair sticking out the top. She sucks on one thumb and twists her hair around the other, never motionless, not even in her sleep.
When I wake her, she smiles. Her sassy side doesn't get up this early, so she's still all cuddles and giggles and hugs and kisses. I pick her up and brush her hair out of her eyes while we rock together in her chair. Maybe if I hold her tightly enough she'll know how much I love her, sassiness and all.
The rest of the day is a blur. The new job is still so new, with so much to learn. Evenings are so busy, with meals to prepare, dishes to wash, laundry to do, baths to take and bedtime stories to read. By nighttime, it's all too much for me: I'm too tired, too worn out, too worried. Worried about the kids, worried about the parents, worried about the job, worried I've forgotten something I should be worried about. Sometimes I just lie awake waiting for morning.
And so on this Thanksgiving weekend I give thanks for mornings: the lazy ones, the crazy ones, the hazy ones.
Yes, I've always been a morning person, but never quite like this.
Mona Shand is a writer and former news reporter. You can read more on her blog.