Monday, November 15, 2010

The Morning Drill

Since the time change, our early mornings have gotten earlier. My practice with the kids in years past has been to ignore the time change in either direction. In the summer their bedtime is an hour later, in the winter an hour earlier. Our winter rhythm is school-focused, cozy, sleepy. Our summer rhythm is more social, more outdoor, looser.

Because of this practice, however, Mihiretu, who, having shed his nap, retires early, is now waking up in the five o'clock hour. There were a couple of mornings last week that started at four-thirty. Ben and I also go to bed early so it's not as crippling as it could be, but it does make for a whole lot of morning. By the time we're riding bikes to school at 8:45, the day seems half over.

The upside of this long morning is there's ample time to complete the morning chores. Though, from the moment I open my eyes to the moment the front door swings shut behind me, I'm hustling. Making beds, making breakfast, making lunches, feeding the children, the cat, the guinea pigs and the chickens, bathing and clothing the kids and myself, grooming everyone's hair, brushing teeth, washing breakfast dishes, tidying up toys brought out for morning play and then, if I'm feeling ambitious, applying mascara - only to myself.

I looked at the row of packed lunches this morning and felt a wave of accomplishment, then an accompanying wave of embarrassment. Really? I'm proud of getting the lunches made? But then I thought, well, okay, maybe making lunches in and of itself isn't a big deal, but when you add that to the hundreds of other small gestures of nurture I make in a day, not only the chores but the small kindnesses, each gift of praise, it probably makes up a bigger picture. A picture of a family that's well cared for.

Maybe these incredibly busy years, these years chock full of boring tasks, of laundry, groceries, mopping up spills of all varieties, wiping noses and bottoms, enforcing homework and bedtime and general non-violence, these years of drudgery, are my most impactful. Maybe this, these lunches lined up on a counter, are my legacy. My effort at raising kids that feel loved in big ways and small, kids who will maybe go on to become happy and healthy adults. Adults who might do some good in the world. Or, at very least, be good parents.

Sometimes - often - all I want to do is turn my back on the vacuum and the laundry basket, the mewling cat and the screaming child, and curl up alone with a book. But when I see Mae poised so confidently on the stage at school, calmly reading the list of Halloween costume victors, or Lana quickly and correctly answering Mae's multiplication homework, or Mihiretu tentatively emerging from his protective chrysalis, unfolding himself, revealing his delicate, multicolored wings, actually risking our love, it seems like I am maybe doing something right. Maybe a few somethings. Maybe all those pennies dropped in the jar are adding up.

Worth getting up at 4:30 in the morning. Most days.

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