A Christmas Timeline

As reported over breakfast on Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve, 11:30 pm: Mom wakes up. Must have dreamed the kids were prowling around downstairs shaking packages to see which ones were Legos. Certain she can still hear someone down there. Gets out of bed. Dark. Kids sleeping all snug in their beds. Dog snoring on the floor.

Just past midnight: The ten year old wakes up from a dream about zombies that morph into a basketball game.

1:00 am: Footsteps on the roof. The seven year old looks out the skylight to see a flashing light. Scrambles under the covers so Rudolph doesn’t tell Santa he’s awake.

2:00 am: The ten year old thinks he hears the gate at the bottom of the stairs, but falls back to sleep.

4:30 am: The twelve year old is wide awake. He tiptoes into his parents’ room, crawls into bed.

5:00 am: Two brothers whispering down the hall. The oldest bolts to see what’s up.

5:15 am: Mom and Dad lie awake listening to the excitement brewing. Three boys show up at the foot of the bed. “Not until six o’clock,” says Mom.

5:45 am: The jingle of bells. An amp, electric guitar and baritone horn. Three boys play Jingle Bells, singing as loudly as they can.

6:00 am: Silly String is discovered in three Christmas stockings.

7:00 am: Presents unwrapped, boys clean Silly String off the ceiling fan in the bedroom. The smell of bacon cooking. Christmas music. Everyone wearing new jerseys from rival football teams and socks that say “awesome” and “strong” and “lucky”.

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Creation at Six and Eleven

“I know how we were made,” said the six year old at 5:45 a.m. on a Sunday.

We were having a sleepover in “Mom’s room”, so four kids and a dog started off the night in sleeping bags on the floor. At about 5:00 a.m., two kids climbed into my bed. A third started sniffling.

“First we were in the shape of food, but then our ghosts came in and turned the shapes into people. And there we were!”

“Wow,” I said, eyes still closed hoping to prolong the night, “that is a really cool way to think about it.”

But my eleven year old is too literal for that. “Mom, if you keep saying things like that, you are not going to bring up a very smart kid.”

He turned to his little brother, “It was the umbilical chord. I knew that when I was six. So should you. But the real stuff comes next year in science.”

I Almost Forgot

Family life stole something from me that I had almost forgotten until this week vacationing on a farm – a place where our three boys run from field to field, play Frisbee and baseball, ride ATVS across the countryside, help split wood for an afternoon…. And then sleep deeply for hours.

Each morning on the farm, I wake up to the sound of birds singing and the sun shining through the window. A cool breeze blowing across the sheets on the bed. I lay there peacefully for ten minutes, thirty or more, soaking it in.

Fresh air. Quiet.

No dog paws clicking across the hardwood floor, or growling at the bottom of the bed. “Time to go out.”

No child tugging at the blanket, morning breath in my face, by 6:00 a.m. “Mom, I’m bored!” “I’m hungry!” “Are you awake?” “Can you come downstairs?”

No list of errands.

Just me. My muscles slowly stretching. My brain turning on one thought at a time. The singing birds. The sun for a few moments before it all begins.

The Early Riser

At 4 a.m. on Christmas morning, I heard the heavy footsteps of my ten-year-old cross the floor of the hall and then my bedroom. His footsteps woke the dog up in her crate downstairs, and she was barking to be let out just before 5 a.m. Soon, the other boys were awake and ready to open presents. By the time the sun came up, the wrapping paper was already in the recycling bin, and my husband and I were sipping Bloody Marys.

Next year, the number one item in my letter to Santa will be the rare gift of sleeping until 7 a.m.

That’s not much to ask for, is it? Just an extra hour and fifteen minutes once a year?

Every single day of this vacation – and every weekend all year – my ten-year-old wakes up before 5:45 – my usual weekday wake-up time – no matter what time he falls asleep. On a school day, he can sleep late, but never on a day off.

I have tried different strategies from establishing rules to pleading to lack-of-sleep-induced rage. Nothing works. Saturday rolls around and clomp-clomp-clomp across the hall. Then a loudly whispered, “Mom!”

Failed approaches to changing his sleep habits have included:

Plan A: Forbid him to leave his bed until the clock reads 7:00 a.m. I bought him a clock, which mysteriously disappeared. I bought him a second clock with multi-colored numbers. Apparently, an hour and a half is long time for a child to lay awake in bed. Every fifteen minutes or so, I would hear the clomp-clomp-clomp of his footsteps crossing the hall again. “Mom! I’m bored!” Sometimes the second round included tears, “I just can’t do it!”

Plan B: Leave a book in the empty bedroom for him to read in the morning. There, he can turn on a light without waking his brothers. Reading every morning is a great habit. And the empty bedroom is adjacent to his, so those heavy footsteps have a shorter route. But he insisted on letting me know he was awake first. Then back across the hall, and it only bought fifteen minutes. Clomp-clomp-clomp and “Mom! I can’t read anymore! I’m hungry!” And then the barking dog…

Plan C: Tell him to go straight downstairs and be in charge of the dog until 7 a.m. Again, those footsteps and “Mom!” before heading downstairs. And he inevitably lets the dog outside then forgets her while he plays video games. The dog barks and wakes up the entire neighborhood before I run downstairs to let her in. The ten-year-old in charge looks up from his game, “Oh, sorry!”

So I have resorted to Plan D, which may the worst plan of all. Break the most basic rule of raising a good sleeper. Let him snuggle. You would think that would do the trick. Doesn’t every child, invited into Mom and Dad’s bed, fall immediately back to sleep? Nope. Whether it’s 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., he squirms. He sighs. He scratches numerous itches. He loudly whispers odd facts that have been rattling around in his brain. He has even had the nerve to inform me on occasion that I smell bad.

When the boy is up, he’s up for good.

So I ask, what’s to be done for a weary mother whose great wish is to sleep until 7 a.m. on a Saturday? It cannot be the impossible dream? Is there a Plan E?

I am already teaching him to tip-toe…