For about a year, my firstborn woke before the dawn’s early light. For those twelve hellish months, 6 a.m. was a far off dream, a fantasy in which it was dangerous to indulge, a carrot dangling at the end of a cold, dark night. I’m not sure if Dante had children, but even if he didn’t, I’m pretty sure one of his infernal rings was based on repeated 4:55 a.m. wakings. Dragging yourself out of a deep, dreaming sleep on a cold, dark morning and padding zombie like to face the smiling, cherubic face of your child—that evil, evil little devil–who is ready to Energizer Bunny his way through the next thirteen hours, is, in the words of my husband, soul-destroying.
The hour of my rising son got more reasonable over time, but like some ancestral farmer throwback, he has always been an early bird. I have a pay back plan on lay away which involves an air horn and a pre-dawn charge of the Mom Brigade.
So it was with some surprise that I realized I have had to start setting my alarm on school mornings.
Yes, you read that correctly. I have to set an alarm. I’m not talking about 5 am or something ridiculous to shower and mascara and brush my hair. More like 7, to give me enough time to get the kids up, make lunch, and kick their little butts through the front door at 8.
Praise be, there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all. My mother was right.
When my children were really little, nothing rang truer than the old saying “The days are long but the years are short”. There were days upon days upon weeks when I thought bedtime would never come. There were vacations that were anything but restful and holidays that were anything but merry. Life with really young children is often nothing more than a test of your endurance levels. A big game of who blinks first. Except that even when you win, you lose. Luckily the little buggers throw a smile or a sticky hug or a “mama” in your direction every now again, otherwise I’m not sure it would be bearable.
My mother said things would get easier, and they have. Oh sure, there are plenty of other things to deal with, (the fighting, the squabbling, the competition), but the day-to-day, minute to minute stuff, well there is a light and it’s getting brighter.
I never thought I would be able to pee in private again. But guess what? I can. At least 50% of the time.
I never thought I would be able to watch a movie on a plane again. I remember so many flights when I was nothing more than a pack mule weighed down by sippy cups full of Cheerios and matchbox cars and books and lollipops and changes of clothes for vomit accidents (a lesson learned the hard way). On our last international flight I watched 6 back to back episodes of The Big Bang Theory and laughed my way over the Atlantic. It really does make the time pass faster. I’d forgotten. And that show is funny.
I never thought I would have whole chunks of time without someone shadowing me like a mini stalker. Now the big one goes for sleepovers and the little one goes for play dates and I find myself actually missing them.
I never thought the four of us would eat the same meal every night together without having to separate out ingredients that someone doesn’t like. Nowadays I look at all four plates on the table and they all have the same thing on them. I may have to make sure individual components aren’t touching one another, but hey, we all have our quirks.
I never thought I would enjoy watching a movie with my kids again. After 353 viewings of Cars and 1,209 episodes of Star Wars the Clone Wars, we’ve discovered that our kids are willing to watch the movies we grew up with. Long live The Goonies.
The most wonderful thing is, the light is going to keep getting brighter. Soon they will both be old enough for sleep overs and I won’t have to worry about babysitting. I’ll be able to leave them while I do the food shopping, adding years to my life and reducing the rate at which my hair is turning gray. We may be able to go away for a weekend, not worry about dinner for a night here and there, call them to say we’re having fun and we’ll be a little late. Vacations may actually be vacations. Holidays may well be jolly and bright.
Of course there is a downside. There always is. As the train of their childhood speeds up through that tunnel, I have to be careful to keep an eye on the sweet spot, to make sure we take advantage of a light that is bright enough to see by but isn’t bright enough to be blinding. I have to watch out for that place in time when they are old enough to make our lives easier but before they are too old not to want to have anything to do with us. In no time they’ll be done with grade school and on to high school and then they’ll be packing their Woody dolls and headed off for college.
Those long, long days really are short years. Before we know it we’ll reach the end of the track and find ourselves alone, standing on a platform that we vaguely remember from years before, wondering where the next train is off to.