Waking to a New State of Being

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In our house there’s no morning rush, but a manic marathon to get out the door on time.

Or just a little bit late.

Fortunately, Hadley’s an early riser. By the time I stumble downstairs, she’s eaten breakfast, packed the lunches and is finishing her homework, stitching a dress or darning doll clothes.

What a slacker.

Cayden and Brynn share the other end of the spectrum. They sleep late, rise reluctantly and function at a tortoise pace. They must be nagged, dragged and threatened to dress, eat and gather their backpacks, which often spew papers, books and art projects from the night before.

Then it’s time to wage World War III: wrestling Brynn into her vest for airway clearance. The treatment takes 30 minutes but we allow an hour for resistance, arguments and a meltdown (or as my Mom called my childhood tantrums, “the dying chicken act”). Factor in errant shoes and missing permission slips and it’s a dash to beat the school bell.

A few weeks ago I started sleeping in the guest bedroom, so my insomnia-fueled tossing wouldn’t sabotage Martin’s slumber, and his snoring wouldn’t trouble me. But recently I’ve slept well. Like a normal human being.

So last night I decamped and reclaimed my side of the bed. And this morning I awoke to two revelations: wow, I slept great! followed by, oh crap, it’s already 8.

Eight o’clock is late. Too late for WW III, and we’d have to scrap chess club, which is twice weekly before school.

“Hadley!” I bellowed while reaching for yesterday’s jeans. “I need your help up here!”

Brynn awoke relatively quickly and offered to roust her brother. She scaled Cayden’s top bunk and straddled his chest while screaming, “Wake Up!” and bouncing on him like a bronco buster.

This wasn’t as traumatic as the time that Hadley woke Cayden by dragging him from bed by his feet. (Cayden stayed asleep until the free-fall, when his head struck the rungs of the ladder and he landed in a heap on the floor.)

While not as painful, Brynn’s bronc-riding wasn’t well received.

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Note: falling from bed doesn’t guarantee consciousness.

I dished up a condensed version of the manic marathon and shoved them out the door at 8:55. Dirty dishes and food littered the kitchen. We left a trail of shoes, jackets, school papers and overdue library books in our wake.

As we sped to school, I lectured Cayden about his fidgeting and sluggish eating habits. And I lit into Brynn about — well — everything. “Hadley, we have got to get these kids up earlier. Much earlier. I’m sick of you all missing chess club.”

Tires screeching, we arrived at school. So late, there wasn’t a bus in sight. “Out, out out!” I yelled. “Hurry up!”

Brynn buzzed to have the door unlocked and chagrined, we filed in. I prepared to sign the late sheet, they awaited notes for class. I glanced at the wall where the clock should be. “Where’s the clock?” I asked.

“Chess club uses it,” the school secretary replied.

I shrugged and ducked out the door, relieved to avoid a finger-wagging reprimand about timeliness.

I thought I was home free, til I spotted Cayden’s lunch sitting shotgun in the car.

That kid, always forgetting something…

I buzzed the office once again. All three kids were perched on a bench.

“Cayden, here’s your lunch. Why are you all still here? Are you in trouble?”

“They’re in chess club, right?” the school secretary asked.

“Yea, when they get to school on time.” Did I miss something? Were they late for some special chess club meeting?

“Why are they sitting here?”

“Chess club doesn’t start until 8:25.”

“So,” I said, glancing for the missing clock. “Shouldn’t they be in class? What time is it?”

“It’s 8:05.”

Silence blanketed the room. Hadley and I exchanged stunned expressions. Cayden appeared indifferent. Brynn was oblivious — she can’t tell time.

“I told you to look at the kitchen clock,” Cayden finally said.

“I thought you were pointing out that it’s a few minutes slow. It’s 9:05… right?” The office staff erupted in laughter.

“It’s 8:05,” someone sputtered between laughs.

I felt my wrist, then my back pocket, but my watch and phone were at home.

“Well, it feels like 9:05,” I said, mentally reviewing the morning routine. “The clock beside my bed…. I guess it’s still an hour ahead.”

“So is mine,” Hadley admitted. “But I wake up with the sun.”

“It’s really 8:05? Well Cayden, I’m sorry that I made you bolt your eggs. And you can forget that lecture in the car.”

The staff was still laughing as I wandered out, mulling over my bonus hour. I glanced back at the kids. They were wedged together on the bench, wide-eyed and silent, undoubtedly pondering the situation.

This new, uncharted territory: being early.