At five a.m. I am awake, but not cooperating. I wish I could tell you that I jump out of bed like Doris Day would, and break into song and greet the day ahead with a lot of enthusiasm and perfect pitch, but I tend to curl up tighter under the covers and I grumble. My husband, lovely man that he is, shuffles off to the shower and then (mildly awake) shuffles downstairs to make coffee. I rage, rage against the idea of getting up, but…it’s the coffee grinder…it makes me get up…I think that’s why we agreed to have fresh-ground coffee every morning, because it gets me out of bed.
If we didn’t have children, we could be like the other couples in the neighborhood that leave their townhouses at a decent time, looking refreshed and put-together. Instead, we sit at the dining table with cups of coffee in our hands, watching the news (what does it mean that we watch Way Too Early with Willie Geist? That’s it TOO EARLY!) and waiting for J to emerge from his cocoon. The neighborhood is quiet and dark. No one stirs at that hour. With two busy hospitals within three miles of our home and many doctors and other hospital workers as neighbors you’d think we’d see some sort of activity, but no…ours is the only kitchen that is bright and awake at that hour.
By the third sip of coffee, J has come downstairs (a lot more energetic and enthusiastic than us) and is brightly saying GOOD MORNING! By the fifth sip of coffee it is easier to forgive J and TGG for having put us in this position…you know the position: the grown-up position. The children have turned us into responsible, early-rising adults.
Every commercial for breakfast foods shows a brightly sunny kitchen and wide-awake parents. Kids on TV go to school at ten in the morning…that’s the only explanation for how bright and sunny those kitchens are; they are all enrolled in Noon Academy and that’s why mom has time to be fully dressed, coiffed and made up, and yet they don’t have time to make anything other than a toaster pastry, a waffle, a breakfast drink or spread some Nutella on toast. Our children, thank you, have raised us better…
Oh, the things they’ve trained us to do! What those who raised me could not, in spite of massive efforts, train me to do, the children achieved quite easily. Not only do we wake up early in the mornings, but we also are capable of easily waking every hour on the hour if it’s necessary, or wake up suddenly if we hear a cough or a sound that indicates immediate assistance is needed. My reputation for being able to sleep through the last ten seconds of a championship game for any sport while the crowd is going wild, dashed to bits. I hear a burp in the night and something triggers inside my brain…on my feet and propelling down the hallway I am…
The children have taught us to rise early, to not slide down banisters or skips steps even as we’ve been teaching them to not do those things. I don’t know how many times a day I say “no…running…on…the…stairs!!!!” I also don’t know how many times I remind myself of things I shouldn’t do so that the kids don’t think it’s ok to do them. Isn’t that what raising children is all about?
Yesterday morning we headed out to take the recycling. It was early on a Sunday morning and we were all very relaxed, and pleased with our pancake breakfast. After loading the car, jotting a quick note of things needed from the store (after reading the low-fiber diet instructions for the umpteenth time,) and making sure I had everything, I climbed in the car with everyone else and started fussing around with the glove compartment. Dada started pulling out of the driveway and J, at the top of his lungs, yelled STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!! The brakes were duly slammed on and, mere seconds away from a collective heart attack, we all turned to look at J.
If we were glaring at J, he was glaring right back. We were upset and pretty jolted (rightfully so considering the abrupt nature of the yelling,) but J was downright mortified and irritated with us.
“WHAT isyourproblem…wrongwithyou…wasthatallbout, J?,” we blurted out, tripping over each other and raising our voices, arms crossed over chests. AH-AAAAH!!!!!!, J yelled back, hands flapping around as he demonstrated his irritation. The rest of us were not amused. The car idled in the driveway while we all argued back and forth trying to figure out what we’d forgotten, left behind, done wrong. AH-AAAAAAH!!!!!, J called out and grabbed my shoulder.
Pointing, pointing, pointing…to the seatbelt. The realization I had forgotten to buckle in dawned on us all and now a collective OOOOH floated through the cabin of our vehicle. All three people who had been emoting on the brink of a conniption mere moments before were now agreeing that, yes, yes, this was a big slip-up and thank you, J and wow you’re right we buckle in…
J, miffed beyond his normal, crossed his arms over chest, huffed slightly and, grumbling unintelligibly, gave us a look (that traveled down his nose and dropped on us like one big bucket of contempt) and turned towards the window. Not only had we (I) been chastised, I had offended the chastiser and he was having none of my apologetic clap-trap. His look, as he gave me sidelong glance through my rearview mirror, said “I’ve taught you better than to not IMMEDIATELY buckle in!” Even Dada, who tends to side with me, told me “aren’t you always saying this car is not moving until we’re all buckled in?” Very maturely, of course, I shot back: “well, I’m not the one who’s driving, am I? You moved the car without ascertaining if I’d buckled in or not.”
J issued another AH-AAAH!, sounding this time like a parent whose patience -after wearing thin- has reconstituted itself to a more benevolent thickness. On the front seats, the parents sulked temporarily…one might even have stuck a tongue out at the other, but I’m not naming names.
A few minutes later, peace reigned inside the vehicle with J happily singing along to the radio and encouraging the rest of us to get over it and join him.
So…who is raising who? Methinks it’s a two-way street…I just don’t know why we’re getting up so very early for it when no one else seems to be doing the same.