For the four years my oldest daughter was in high school, every school morning began sometime between 4:30-5:30 am. That’s because in our church, high school students attend a class called Seminary every day, where they do in-depth study of the scriptures and gospel principles. In Texas, our girls’ Seminary class was held at 6am, before the regular school day even began.
My oldest daughter – and then later our 2nd daughter, who was a freshman when our oldest was a senior – would bump around the house before dawn, tired and lumbering, or else other times rushing from having slept too late. Our youngest son – only 1 yo when this all started – would often wake in those early hours and stay up, ready for the day. After the madness of getting the girls off to Seminary, then getting the other two kids off to school at yet two other start times, I would sit with my toddler, me already exhausted before 8 am, he ready for the day with energy to spare.
In those days, whomever got up to manage the morning chaos – either my husband or I – was considered a hero. Thanks were given. If I discovered that I was alone in bed having slept until 6 am, I felt both grateful and guilty. Sometimes, if possible, naps were taken by the early-rising parent to shake off the pre-dawn waking. But then my husband started traveling every week, and I was the only one there for the job. When my oldest daughter got her license and was at least able to drive to Seminary, things got a little easier, but only a little.
For four years, mornings were a beast.
But here we are now, at a new school, with a new Seminary schedule and a youngest son who is much more independent, and my mornings have changed so much!
For starters, Seminary at our daughters’ high school is an actual class period (called “release time”) during their normal day. Our 6th grade son starts school at 8:15 am, our 9th and 10th grade daughter start at 8:30 (and 9 am on Wednesdays!). Our family doesn’t typically begin to get up until about 6:45 every day. SO different than 4:30-5:30!! And now even when my youngest son – who is 5 – wakes up, he doesn’t often wake us or need us. He gets up, gets dressed, gets a breakfast snack, then usually starts playing the Wii or watching tv until the house is up and active. His room is removed from much of the household activity, though, so some mornings he might even sleep undisturbed until 8 am. It’s been shocking, considering that just six months ago he used to be up before the sun nearly every morning.
This major shift for our family was on my mind this Saturday morning as I rolled over and realized it was already 9 am. My pattern for years has been to see that “late” hour and give thanks for the sleep, then prepare to give major thanks to my husband for letting me “sleep in.” But then I listened carefully and realized: everything in the house was just fine. The kids were all taking care of themselves, my husband was just sitting and watching football while eating his breakfast. Being the first parent to wake up is no longer a burden, and sleeping is no longer such a clandestine luxury.
I have friends who will often remark on how much “easier” my life must be having older children – how they must be such big helpers, are so independent, etc etc. Generally, I have found those assumptions to be false – motherhood for me has become a bigger emotional investment as my kids have gotten older, and keeping up with their busy schedules, fragile social lives, and mercurial temperments, have been a challenge. But now, at last, I can say that ONE thing has gotten easier: our mornings. And I can also say that having that extra sleep and easier transition into each new day has been an absolute lifesaver.
What are mornings like in your house? Are you all up early, like we used to be? Or are your kids more independent and you’re able to sleep a bit more?