June 23, 2009

It's Good to Be the Mom

It's high time I admitted the truth. Nearly all of my parenting decisions are predicated on my relentless need for sleep.

This is what happens when you are a night owl in a daytime world. Most people wake up in the morning bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to start their day. Not me. My best time is after the sun goes down. I pulled my first all-nighter in high school. By college, I'd learned not to schedule any classes before 11:00 a.m. ... and sometimes I'd miss even those.

And yet, I am forced to survive in a world where I need to be not only awake but alert and conversant by 8:00 a.m. What's even more terrifying - I have somehow birthed not one, not two, but three morning people, all of whom rise with the sun.

And for some reason, they want me to get up, too.

This is why it's good to be the mom. When the not-yet-ex left and I no longer had my a.m. safety net, I put into place an entire set of rules designed to bring peace and quiet to my mornings and keep the kids happy and safe. I can catch a few more zzz's and ease into my day.

This has had some unexpected benefits for the kids. To wit:
  • They can cook. My kids wake up hungry. Now, I honestly don't think they need to eat at 6:30 a.m. Not when it means I have to get out of bed. They disagree. So I've taught my older two how to heat toaster waffles, fill a bowl with cereal and milk, slice up some cheese, peel a banana, open a yogurt or two, and pour their own juice. Voila! Breakfast.
  • They are responsible. The kids have noticed that if they don't let the dog out and feed her, the house gets loud and stinky, and mom gets cranky. So they take turns managing the dog in the mornings. (To be fair, this has been a kid chore for years; the difference is that now they do it without being asked.)
  • They use the potty. My older two had the benefit of a grown-up morning person in the house when they were toilet training. I suspect that's why neither of them mastered the art till the age of four. Not so my little guy. He is now fully independent on the toilet and has been since he was two. That's right, two. This is largely because I move verrrrry slowly in the mornings. He hollers "Pee-pee!!!" and runs into the bathroom in a blind panic. By the time I get there he's washing his hands. (For which, by the way, WAY TO GO little guy! )
  • They play fewer video games. My kids used to get up in the mornings and go play on the Wii. World War III would promptly follow. "You cheated!" "That's MY game!" "Mooooooom!!!" Screaming, bickering and tattling are not conducive to sleep. So I no longer allow video games in the morning. They play less, so their brains rot less. Yay!
  • They are independent. My kids know that if they dress themselves, brush their own teeth, and head quietly downstairs, I will remain in bed. If they're lucky, this means an extra 30 minutes of SpongeBob.
  • They're more creative. Books, art projects, pretend play - these are quiet and can be done independently, with a minimum of bicker-inducing interaction. Quiet is good, and TV gets boring. So the kids set out stacks of books, art supplies and toys to entertain themselves.
Oh, and get this! Yesterday I figured out a whole new bonus to the "protect my mornings" plan. This is because yesterday, the kids decided to play board games when they woke up. On the surface, a good idea. Nice, quiet activity. No remote control. My kids, however, are very poor sports. Before long, my diva and my Aspie were hollering the house down. It was far worse than the Wii on a really bad Wii day.

As punishment, I decided to enforce cooperation. I made them do the dishes.

This. Was. Brilliant.

Even more than I love sleep, I hate washing dishes. In the 43 years of my existence I have had exactly one argument with my dad. Just one. It's true. Surprising, but true. And guess what that argument was about? It was about doing the dishes. Didn't want to do them at 13. Don't want to do them now.

So yesterday, I didn't do the dishes. The kids did. I supervised. From the sofa. With my eyes mostly closed. And the kids learned two valuable lessons. They learned to be self-sufficient, and they learned to get along.

Win-win, so far as I can see.

They still come into the bedroom and jump on me at the slightest provocation. I try very very hard to enjoy it.

P.S. While these rules are designed to protect the quiet of my mornings, the fact is that I'm rarely sleeping. Most often I am upstairs in my room letting my brain get used to being awake and listening at the open door to the peace and quiet produced by three wonderfully independent, cooperative and loving children. I'm starting to realize that I'm doing a pretty good job of raising them (and, credit where credit is due, their dad's not doing so bad either).

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