There was a grump in the house this morning.
I really consider myself a morning person. My husband says I’m not, because I am not a chipper morning person–the type that you usually think of that fits the stereotype of someone who loves mornings. I do not jump out of bed at daybreak with a song on my lips. I don’t really jump out of bed at all, and not just because it’s sort of difficult with an almost-third-trimester belly. I am just not a break-of-dawn bed jumper. But I love the morning; it’s my favorite time of day. I just like mornings to be very, very quiet.
I am the only person in my house that views mornings as a time of sacred reflection and silence. I suppose one of the boys might grow into the role of Morning Monk, but at their current ages, they’re loud. From the moment they wake up, they’re loud. Anselm (who is the first to wake) punctuates his newfound wakefulness with a half-yell, half-shriek that can only be described as a bark of pure happiness. He always wakes happy. Happily loud. Depending on the day, Clive or Ephraim will wake next, and depending on their moods at being awakened by Anselm’s Happy Sounds, they will laugh and play, or squabble and bicker. But, no matter what mood they choose, they do it at full volume.
Because of the incompatibility of our morning temperaments, I have always endeavored to wake up before the boys–at least an hour earlier, maybe two–to enjoy the quiet and the darkness gradually lightening, to contemplate the possibilities of the day, to enjoy my coffee and to read something that makes me think.
From the first sentence of my post, you can probably guess where I’m going with how my day started. I guess it would be possible to write a post on How to Survive Mornings As A Mom When You’re A Reverently Quiet Morning Person (though I’m sure that post already exists somewhere). When I miss that quiet morning time, I can be a real grump around the house. But the thing about this morning is that I had some quiet moments to myself. And I was a grump anyway.
I would never discourage the idea that you should know yourself as a parent–or as a person, for that matter. Figure out what makes you tick. I think it’s wise to know where your limits are and what pushes you over them the fastest, so that you can be proactive about them rather than just reacting all the time. But there comes a point where, whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert, whether I’m a morning person or a night owl (or a reverent morning person or a chipper sing-song morning person) I have to realize that some things in life will always be a challenge; there has to be an alternative to coddling myself and my preferences, and then sulking when my efforts fail.
Yesterday was a day of thankfulness, of remembering the things you’ve taken for granted the other 364 days of the year. It’s easy to sit around a table of glorious food and relish the family you’ve been given. It’s a lot harder on the next morning, when the baby in utero kept you awake most of the night and you got up later than you wanted and so you didn’t get as much of an opportunity for a quiet morning as you thought you needed and so the onslaught of noise that heralds getting the boys up feels like some kind of personal affront. (“Would you PLEASE stop talking to each other, I’m trying to drink my coffee and be contemplative and ponderous, for crying out loud!?”) Being a parent is hard work, not just because I’m an introvert and the children are loud or I’m an extrovert and the children keep me at home, or whatever personality conflict fits. It’s because I’m a person and my children are people, too, and iron sharpens iron. Just the simple fact of our living together means conflict is inevitable, but that friction will sharpen me if I let it–and it will sharpen them, too. It’s the nature of the arrangement.
It occurred to me this morning as I was helping my (very loud) middle son to dress that maybe I don’t need more alone time in the morning. Maybe I don’t need an extra cup of coffee or for the children to sit sagely around the breakfast table in perfect contemplative silence while I drink it. Maybe the problem is that I don’t actually value my children as much as I should. Please understand me–I love them dearly. I would do anything for them. Except, apparently, treat them kindly and cordially when I’ve missed my imperative morning alone time. Then all bets are off.
This is a hard admission for me. It was hard this morning as I pulled Clive’s shirt over his head while lifting up a prayer of confession for my shortcoming and asking for the grace to comprehend the value of my family. It got harder as I stopped giving myself permission to be a grump to my kids because they’re too young to understand that mornings are for quiet. If I love my kids, if I am thankful for them, if I value their personhood, can I not just be glad they’re awake and with me at the start of the day? There’s a quote by Edith Schaeffer in The Hidden Art of Homemaking that has stuck with me since the first time I read it:
“You cannot expect to have a close relationship with a teenager who, after all, is still the same person as the two-year-old you stuck crying into bed, the three-year-old you spanked and shoved aside, the four-year-old you wouldn’t listen to, the five-year-old you never shared beauty with, the six-year-old you found boring, or you ‘trained’ never to butt in, but never gave time to make a cozy and beautiful background out of which you could talk to him or her.”
All this is what I’ve been thinking about today.
I will not stop getting up early in the mornings, but I don’t want to be the sort of person whose demeanor depends on the delicate balance of personality needs being met; I don’t want to be the kind of mother who demands her children meet her personality quirks but cannot extend the same courtesy to them. I want to value my children for who they are, not just when they’re convenient or well-behaved or when I’m feeling up to the task.
Oh boy, have I got a lot of praying to do.