I have learned not to say anything when friends moan about how their children woke them up at 8 am on the weekend. “How awful!” I tell them. And it truly must be awful for them because it’s a brand new or unusual experience. I can not even imagine what an 8 am wake up moment looks like.
I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but somehow I gave birth to an early riser. That’s right. My son W is a happy, cheerful, enthusiastic, bed-jumping, morning person. This would be really awesome if I was also an early riser. We would be early riser buddies and bake bread and go for walks and watch the sun rise. We would have this secret and magical time to enjoy each other before the rest of the world woke up.
Except I don’t want to be awake. I want to be sleeping. I want to be sleeping for at least two or three more hours.
I’m clearly not an early riser and I am a morning person only because I am a grownup and have grownup things to do in the morning like drink all the coffee and work. If left to my own devices, I think I would wake up at 9 am. I think. I honestly don’t know anymore. For just over six years W has been starting his day between the hours of 5 and 6 am.
DID YOU HEAR ME? I have been routinely woken up at 5:30 am for SIX YEARS.
For the first four years I tried to change one or both of us. I started with him because 5 am is just all kinds of awful every day. Clearly HE was the broken one. I tried shifting W’s bed time later. I tried blackout curtains. I tried sound machines. Nothing worked. I figured, “Well, if you can’t beat him, join him!” I went to bed when I put him down and a few times I woke up the same time he did, but I was never happy about it. He is always happy.
Turns out you can’t easily change your circadian rhythm. It was finally time for us to accept one another. W needed to accept that I can not and should not be woken up at 5 am and I needed to accept that W is absolutely going to wake up at this time. It’s not always easy, but you CAN survive raising a morning person. Here’s how in six steps.
Step 1: Invest in age-appropriate time pieces
Even before W was able to tell time, I started working with him on ideal “get up” times. (By the way “get up” in our home means “get mama up.” I can’t control when W wakes up and I don’t expect a clock to do that either.) We had a tot clock next to his bed set to 6 am. This was our compromise time where he could come to my room.
Step 2: Set up a morning snack station
One of the big reasons why W wanted to wake me up every morning was because he was hungry. Makes sense. As his age and abilities grew, we set up different morning foods for him to grab on his own. I started to notice being able to get his own morning snack made W behave more responsibly in the kitchen. It suddenly wasn’t an exclusive area of our home.
Step 3: Set up an activity station so he can entertain himself
After snacking on a cereal bar, W needed something to DO. He always has several go-to activities in his room: a small LEGO kit, a coloring book, or something else to amuse him and get his brain going.
Step 4: Embrace technology
Coloring is fun for some days, but on other days only the Muppets will do. If you are comfortable teaching your kid how to navigate children’s morning programing or popping in a DVD, this will work to your advantage.
Step 5: Set out clothes
One of our agreed upon items for the morning is that W needs to get dressed for the day before he wakes me. I help him out by putting his clothes out the night before. Occasionally I still get a fully dressed child waking me up at 5 am, but at least we don’t have to rush later to get ready for school.
Step 6: Be ready with “send away” tasks
Sometimes W has had his cereal bar, played with his LEGOs, watched a bit of TV, and gotten dressed and it is just not enough. What he wants is conversation. What he wants is someone to start the day with. I am not on board with this. TOO SOON, dear. I always have a few “send away” tasks like, “Can you put the dirty towels in the hamper for me?” or “Can you check that the cat has food?” It gives me, at most, two more minutes. But for someone who has been sleep-deprived for years, those two minutes are gold.
I hear morning people are really fantastic and productive people, so I’m glad that I seem to be raising one. I’ll be even more glad just as soon as I can catch up on some sleep.