When I first started the blog, J was nervous about being left alone at bedtime. After reading and lights out, I’d usually linger in the hallway, just outside the two girls’ rooms, and that’s when I often thought of posts. Later I received a teensy computer that I’d prop on my lap, and that time was spent just rambling about something. I’ve realized that now that the girls (sniff!) don’t need me within sight as they fall asleep, I’ve lost that perfect little blogging interlude. Often I’d have no particular plan of what to say, but I was sitting there, bored and mildly resentful that I couldn’t just veg out in front of the tv, and the next thing I knew, I’d written a bunch and the girls had fallen into a deep sleep while I’d forgotten all about them.
We don’t do that anymore, and maybe the blog has suffered for it. In any case, I found myself with no idea what to write about, so on my way to pick up M at soccer, I denied myself any music and instead, I came up with a list of random family posts that I could write about. So tonight it’s the weekday morning routine.
I begin the morning routine already in progress because I am almost always the last person awake in my household. No matter how early or late they went to bed the night before, the girls are up super-early. And by super-early, what I really mean is, some random time before I wake up. I don’t really know, because I’m not conscious yet. Cute W says that they’re usually up around 6 to 6:30 am. He wakes with the sun and occasionally earlier. When it’s earlier, Isis the cat is generally to blame. She’ll stand on his chest and meow insistently until he rouses himself to offer her food or let her out or do whatever her bidding may be. She rarely bothers me in this way, because I am excellent at tuning her out. (In fact, when she meows like this, it doesn’t wake me up–what wakes me up is Cute W saying, “Ssshhh” to her.) On those rare occasions when I haven’t managed to sleep through the meows and Cute W isn’t there to act, you know, sane, I’ll respond to her in a violent, fuguelike state. Apparently I’ve thrown books at her, and once, when Cute W was out of town and we were still trying to keep her indoors, I locked her in the downstairs bathroom. When I actually woke up later, she had shredded the corner of the carpeting that her paw could reach from the crack beneath the door. I know. I’m terrible. And I’m not saying that this is acceptable behavior in a pet caretaker. But that’s what happened. Because this is an essential part of my personality: I maintain sleep.
I often joke that Cute W’s talent is falling asleep quickly, while mine is to continue sleeping against all odds. Apparently I’ve passed this talent on to sweet J. The other night I came upstairs and found the toilet unflushed and the water running from the tap at full force. She’d roused herself enough to make it to the bathroom but had missed out on the sort of plumbing formalities that one might complete if one weren’t basically sleepwalking. When I was in high school, I was so good at getting up and walking across the room to turn off my alarm without ever reaching full consciousness that I began to string yarn back and forth to create an obstacle course challenging enough to shake me awake. I’m still pretty functional when half asleep. Or I think I am. Sometimes I’ll call out to Cute W from bed as he’s walking around the room, getting undressed after an evening watching football with the neighbors or getting ready early for a morning business trip. I’ll say, “What was the score?” or “Good morning!” or “Where are you going, again?” and Cute W never, ever answers me. Ignores me each and every time. And each and every time I become enraged that he cannot just politely answer the question, and I think that I should maybe just tell him off this time, but I don’t have the energy for an argument, and I wonder if possibly I’m pronouncing my sweet wifely patter like, “Mmpfh–frumma-hhmpph.” And then next thing you know it’s much later and he’s gone.
The point is, I’m a sleeper. Lucky for me, everyone else is highly functional in the morning. Sometimes they’re playing games or reading or doing crafts. It’s like a sweet, serene, senior community center or something. And when I arrive downstairs, all hell breaks loose. Because everyone knows that the only reason I’m appearing is because we absolutely must get ready to go to school now. Truly, I would like to be the kind of person who wakes up early, before the rest of the family, and reads the paper with a cup of tea or meditates or works out or something unbelievably awesome like that. I need to let that go, because it won’t ever happen. It feels all the more painful when I see that everyone else in the family seems to have that “me” time that I have squandered by sleeping again. I’ve tried to go to bed earlier, but that’s not how my body works. Part of me yearns for the girls’ adolescence specifically for the slobbish, late-sleeping habits I have been assured that they are likely to acquire. I ache for the opportunity to not be the latest riser in the morning (will I eat these words five years from now?). Because the consequence of waking up so late is that I must spring immediately into full-throttle morning mode.
I have two main jobs in the morning: making lunch and snack provisions for the children and helping them get out the door with minimal drama. Cute W is in charge of making breakfasts. Almost every day, he’ll call out, asking what the girls would like for breakfast, and they’ll call back with their requests, and often all three of them will be in separate rooms, and it is a rare, rare day when any of them hear any of the others the first time. It’s all the more ridiculous since the kids can make their own breakfast–and make their own lunch, for that matter–but the routine is so ingrained that we haven’t transitioned to anything else. If I’m running behind with the lunch-making the girls will help with snacks and water bottles, then it all gets transported to a waiting dining room table and chairs, where the backpacks, shiny red homework folders, and other items are gathered before it’s time to go.
It’s a remarkably compact time period, because the girls are usually out the door and walking to school by 7:35 am at the latest. They aim to leave at 7:25 am, which allows them a full 20 minutes to walk the block and a half to school. In their opinion, arriving before the buses is crucial, and they’d prefer to be the first children at schoo each morningl. It’s a bit of a social scene before class, and they resent that we won’t let them leave the house earlier than 7:25 am. We insist that leaving earlier than that would be rude. “You’re not actually invited to be there that early,” I say to them. Generally, though, this is a luxury for us adults, because we’re never concerned that they’ll actually be late. However, there’s plenty of room for drama.
If we’re having a bad morning, M will sit on J’s chair and J will harrumph and make a dramatic show of working around her, and my eye will begin to twitch. On extraordinarily bad mornings, M will be even more efficient than usually (and believe me, the girl is efficient) and J will be a pokier puppy than usual, and next thing you know we’ll have M fully packed and wearing her fleece and tapping her foot by the door while J is staring into space and absent-mindedly combing her hair with nary a sock to be found (because she never, ever remembers socks the first time–she always has to go back upstairs), much less a shoe. Which would be okay, because it’s not even time to leave, except that when J suddenly realizes that she’s so far behind M, she becomes a quivering puddle of self-recrimination and it’s Abandon All Hope time because we are screwed. Tears and despair from the young child, haughty contempt from the elder, and by the time they are out the door I am locking it behind them and wondering if I have the ingredients for a Bloody Mary.
Other days are lovely. The girls are scheming together and no one is too late or too early, and we all hover by the door with fond good-byes. Cute W and I threaten to humiliate the girls by chasing them outside wearing our pajamas and yelling out endearments or singing, and they squeal and run. Or they’ll slide out the door quietly and walk with heads tilted together, then pause to pick up the newspaper that’s landed too close to the curb and bring it to our neighbors’ porch. Cute W and I watch, smiling fondly, then murmur to each other about our overwhelmingly wonderful progeny before returning to breakfast or email or the newspaper for a few moments of quiet.