Through my sleep, I become aware of the sound of 4-year-old mouth-breathing in my room, and then feel the mattress start bouncing as he climbs into my bed and starts whining at me to move over and make room for him to snuggle. I groan and grumble at him to stop pulling on my blanket, but I move over anyway. “Snuggling” lasts for maybe two minutes, before he becomes bored, and begins his list of demands for breakfast, someone to play with him, and/or for me to rub or scratch his back. Usually, I complain that the numbers on the clock say it is too early, and that he needs to go play in his room for a few minutes, and give Mumma a chance to wake up.
Occasionally, this plan works, and I get to spend another 15 minutes or so dozing, while I listen to the imaginative narrations and sound effects of his play over the baby monitor. My bubble inevitably bursts though, as Lego creations are thrust into my face, or shouts of “Can you come wipe my butt!!!?” wake me again.
When we come down the stairs, he is chatty—too chatty for an introverted, non-morning person Mom to handle before coffee. I relish in closing the bathroom door behind me for a moment, creating a physical barrier between us, so that I can pee in peace. However, he usually bursts in on me anyway, says he “just wants to be with me”, and sits on his little bathroom step stool, staring at me while I do my business, and giving me a grin that is somehow simultaneously endearing and obnoxious.
We then make our way to the kitchen, where the regular routine of me suggesting something for breakfast, and him repeatedly asking: “But what else do we have?” begins. This either ends in me losing patience, and making him whatever I am having anyway despite his protests, or giving in and allowing him to have a yogurt tube (they are supposed to be for preschool lunches) and crackers for breakfast, while I have my granola and fruit.
Finally, at the breakfast table, I usually get my moment of peace. He is too impatient to get on with the day’s playing, and instead of demanding and arguing that he stay at the table to eat, I allow him to come and go, returning to the table for an occasional bite, while he makes tinker toy contraptions, or engages a toy ninja in a fight with a knight. His needs being met, and off in his little world, I sip my coffee, eat my own breakfast, and read a book or doodle in my sketchbook. My brain slowly thaws from grogginess, and I become, at least a little bit, human.
At one point, I formed an idealized vision–of us having breakfast together every morning, side-by-side at the table, enjoying conversation–and I tried to make it a reality. This resulted in too much squirminess on his part, and too much impatience on mine. I believe in the importance of the family meal, which we fulfill at dinnertime. Breakfast and lunch with my child, on the days when we are home together, are much more relaxed and fluid, and I have decided to be OK with that, rather than beat myself up about it.
Today is one of such days at home. I do not have to work, and he has no preschool. He has a runny nose and slight cough, so I want to keep him inside the house and as relaxed as possible in order to avoid this little cold from combining with his asthma and becoming croup or worse. I am also heavily pregnant, so while my hope is to get all of the laundry done, dishes washed, dinner planned, and vacuuming done, I am accepting the reality that it might not all happen.
I am reading and drinking a cup of tea while he watches Magic School Bus. He comes over for a bite of his food and sees my mug. “Can I have some tea?” he asks.
I go pour some of the still warm water from my tea preparations into a mug, add a blueberry tea bag, and bring it to the table. He comes back into the dining room, and reaches for his mug. Something catches his attention on the television, he fails to stop paying attention to his actions, and his flailing arm knocks his tea over. (I knew I should not have filled it up so full.)
“Oops! I didn’t mean to.” he tells me, as I jump up and start frantically moving things out-of-the-way before the spreading tea puddle can get to them.
“Quick!”, I shout, “Go get the paper towels!”
He intends to, but he is taking time, perfecting his dismount from the chair.
“Go get the paper towels!”
He is still worried more about doing just the right kind of jump than his shouting mother.
“UGH!”, I sigh with frustration, and make my way to the kitchen to grab what I need, leaving the puddle still spreading on the table. I then make a totally uncool Mom move, when I blurt: “Why are you NEVER fast enough when I ask you to do something!?” I instantly regret these words of criticism, and take a deep inhale. “I’m sorry. I am not mad at you. I am only frustrated because you were not paying attention. I know it was an accident.”
I wipe up the huge spill (Really, why did I fill his mug so full?), he wanders back off to watch his show, and I take another deep breath. The tea missed my library book, and the basket of clean laundry that really should not have been on the table we eat at in the first place, and at least the dining room now smells like blueberries. Finally, I go put on a new pot of water to make him a fresh cup of tea before plopping back down to read more of my book.
Eventually, I will feel ready to get on with the day. I will get myself dressed, and some days, I even manage to convince him to change out of his pajamas too. I will load the dishwasher, and scratching even just one thing off my to-do list will make me feel accomplished. We will glue buttons onto cardboard together , or build a castle out of blocks. He will eventually demand lunch, and I will insist that he have some type of fruit or vegetable with it. He will mope that he just wants pickles and pretzels, and I will try to explain proper nutrition as I spread peanut butter. We will read a pile of picture books, or draw on the driveway with chalk. I will try to pick up clutter while he follows me around like a puppy, pretending to be a baby armadillo, or praying mantis, or whatever the animal/insect of the day is. He will constantly run in front of me, almost tripping me up, and I will silently wish that he would stop talking in a baby voice. At 2:30 I will excitedly announce that Daddy will be home soon, and start mentally counting down the minutes as I wait to hear his car pull into the drive. At this point, the afternoon shifts, and the second half of our day begins.
It took me a while to accept the fact that I am not a get-up-and-go, seize the day type of Mom. I was never that way before kids, so why should I expect it of myself now, when I am even more tired and more frequently overwhelmed? On the days that we do have to be out of the house early, I somehow manage to do what takes me hours on our days at home, in the span of 45 minutes. Those days I feel like Superwoman for getting us both fed, dressed, packed, and out the door and into the car. Somehow I even do my hair, put on makeup, and accessorize. I usually only do this twice a week, but somehow it seems like a humongous feat, despite the fact that I know other parents do the same thing every single week day. Then, our next day at home will arrive, and I will feel slow again, and in need of another long “thaw”. I cannot compare myself with those other 5-days-a-week parents, because their family has different needs, and they are different people.
I am not entirely sure why I felt the need to record and to blog about our mornings. Perhaps it is because I know it will soon change, with the arrival of the new Baby. This post can be a little snapshot to look back on later, including the good and the imperfect, of what our relaxed routine was like with Mumma home and only one child. Perhaps it is a step in my continuing efforts to remain comfortable with my parenting style, and to be OK with who I am as a Mom. I am sure that I am not the only parent out there, who feels less than stellar first thing after waking up, and who might worry about how our being tired effects our abilities with our kids.
I think it is both.