A couple of mornings ago, I rolled over in my bed to the unwelcome sound of the alarm clock. It was still dark out, and as per usual, in no way did I feel rested enough to climb my tired body out of bed for the day. Little did anyone in my house realize that I intentionally set the alarm for an early wake-up, with the hopes of being able to have a cup of coffee by myself, while enjoying the tranquility of kid-free silence.
It’s been a while since I tried to enjoy my morning solitude, because everyone in my family appears to have caught on to what was once my little morning secret. First, it was my husband – he would hear me get out of bed, and not long after, he would follow me down the stairs. I should probably appreciate that he wants to spend more time with me, and I do appreciate it, but it didn’t take me long to explain to him that my precious morning time felt like the only time in my day that I had to myself. We had an agreement that he could join me, but there would be no talking. My few minutes of morning peace were still to be reserved for silence. All I want is to finish a cup of coffee and have some reading time. My husband respected this and agreed.
Eventually, however, my kids also caught on to my little morning secret. There was a short but heavenly period of time in our house where both kids would actually stay in their beds and in their rooms until we came to get them in the morning. That phase ended pretty quickly, and it was replaced by two kids getting out of bed as soon as their eyes popped open. Most recently, both of my kids have developed sonar-like hearing, and they have made it a habit to bolt out of bed in a flash as soon as they hear the faint sound of my alarm clock from behind two closed doors and a different floor of the house.
The other morning, I thought it might be different. I thought if I woke up early enough, that I would get that fifteen minutes of solitude before warmly welcoming my kids’ incredible Good Morning Hugs. Instead, what I got was the faint pitter-patter of little footsteps coming up the stairs as I had my morning pee. Instead of having time to get up, get myself dressed, let the dog out, and pour my coffee, I received a warm and gentle Good Morning Hug from my beautiful daughter while I was on the toilet.
Less than a minute later, my son bolted out of his bed, no doubt after hearing the buzz of activity beginning for the day. His march upstairs never sounds like the pitter-patter of little feet; his brand of movement sounds more like a fast-moving herd of galloping elephants. By the time he made it upstairs, I was at least off of the toilet – and he welcomed me to the day with a tight and bold Good Morning Hug.
I love my kids more than life itself. I love my Good Morning Hugs from them probably more than a heroin addict loves heroin. I love the buzz of our family’s activity in the mornings. It’s just that I’ve been hugged no less than eight times on the toilet this week, and I’m going seriously crazy with the lack of personal space. Yet, how am I supposed to navigate the reality of loving affection from my children and wanting some space? For a while, the only way I could get this space was with those blissful 15 minutes of morning solitude. And now, I don’t have that luxury.
Once my kids were awake that morning, I asked them to go downstairs, to at least give me a minute to get dressed. My daughter complied; my son did not. I got changed, as per usual, with an audience. When I was ready, we went downstairs, the TV went on at top volume, and I went about the morning to-do list before finally pouring myself a coffee. My husband made the kids breakfast while I took 10 minutes with my coffee. It wasn’t exactly in silence, nor was it by myself, but I took what I could get. My husband travels a lot for work, but when he is in town, he tries to give me a break wherever possible.
I can’t help but feel guilty for needing this space. Personal space and solitude like in stark contrast to parenting small children, but it feels vital and necessary to have even just a few minutes to myself a day for me to function. On those days in the past where I was able to wake up, complete the morning to-do list, and have a coffee, my favourite part was actually being ready to see my kids when they got up. And now that my kids pretty much always wake up as soon as they hear me, my mornings feel completely dysfunctional. Amidst the incredible Good Morning Hugs lies the onslaught of Morning Demands and a frazzled mother who does not yet feel like she can meet those demands. I desperately hope my frequent statements of “Give mommy a minute!” and “Mommy needs some space!!” and “Go downstairs so mommy can change!” are not sending the wrong message. I hope I am teaching them to set boundaries, and not that I don’t love seeing them when they wake up.
This struggle, from what I gather from other moms, is not uncommon. I don’t actually know how to deal with it, but since morning solitude currently does not feel like an option, I am trying my best to embrace this season of chaos. This phase of life while the kids are young is so short. One day, in the not-so-near future, I will wake up to teenagers who might not want to give me their signature Good Morning Hugs – much less while I’m on the toilet. One day, in the not-so-near future, these teenagers might not even want to talk to me. One day, my kids will give me a hug while I’m peeing for the last time, before finally realizing that maybe they should knock before entering.
And then, all of a sudden, my kids will give me my space. For a while, I will probably enjoy having that space.
But, one day in the future, I will probably also miss the days of being hugged on the toilet. Because when those days are gone, it means my kids will have grown up.