Wake-up Call


I have not used an alarm clock for seven years.

Every morning at 5:45 a.m., I lay in bed, snuggled under the comforter with my husband Shannon, and hear the sound of two small feet padding up the hallway. The routine is always the same, and the sounds familiar.

First, our little son Ethan turns on the lights in the bathroom, slinging his “Duckie” blanket over his shoulder and peeing into the toilet. The door is never shut but sometimes his hands are washed.

Second, he comes into our bedroom and walks to my side of the bed. He grabs my hand or shoulder, whatever is sticking out from under the comforter and gives me a little shake. “Mommy, wake up. I’m hungry. Can you make me breakfast? I would like waffles with syrup and turkey sausages, and I want to watch Pokemon out front.”

Still surfacing from sleep, I make a few non-committal grunts. If I don’t move fast enough, he shakes again and starts the breakfast monologue over. From day to day, only the details of the monologue change from eating waffles and sausages to cereal and milk to oatmeal and juice, from watching Pokemon to Spongebob to Bakugan.

This routine started the day after we put him in his first big boy bed at two years old. At first, I didn’t mind. An early riser myself, I was still high on the joys of new motherhood. After six months of this morning routine, I was less thrilled and more irritated. No matter what he did the night before or what time zone we were in, Ethan would wake up 15 minutes before dawn.

My irritation extended to my husband who never seemed to hear Mommy’s little wake-up call or have a desire to pitch in to fix toaster waffles. Finally, Shannon came to my rescue, or perhaps he was tired of hearing my complaints, when he dug out my old Sony digital alarm clock. He always hated the noise it made, a shrill ear-piercing bleating, but it was perfect for Ethan with its big green glow-in-the-dark numbers. Plugging it in, Shannon placed it on the dresser across from the big boy bed and as I listened at the door, my husband explained to Ethan the numbers and how he was not to wake up Mommy before the number turned to 6:30.

The next morning at 5:45 little footsteps came down the hall. I held my breath and kept my eyes closed. He opened our bedroom door and approached my side of the bed, leaned in and whispered, “Mommy, I’ll be back at 6:30.” A partial victory.

The next Christmas Ethan was excited to get a new Spongebob alarm clock, bright yellow with Spongebob and Patrick on the face and two bells and a hammer at the top. I am not sure where his great-grandma found such an old-fashioned style clock or more importantly, whether she knew who Spongebob and Patrick were.
“How do you set the alarm?” Ethan asked. “Uh oh,” I thought.

This year I discovered how to get my Sunday mornings back at least – sleepovers. Ethan’s first sleepover came up unexpectedly, after we threw a party at our house. As our friends were leaving, they offered to take Ethan with them and their five-year-old son. I hesitated at first until my friend reminded me that I could sleep in on Sunday. “Great, I’ll pick him up tomorrow at noon.”

After saying good-bye to our friends and doing a half-hearted job of cleaning the kitchen, my husband and I snuggled in under the comforter. At 6:30 the following morning, I felt someone shaking my shoulder.

“What is that noise?” my husband mumbled. I heard a soft ringing somewhere in the house. Thinking it was an alarm system malfunction, I wandered into the hallway while my husband fell back asleep. Now I realized the insistent ringing was actually a dinging, and that it got louder as I reached Ethan’s room. There was the Spongebob alarm clock sitting in the middle of his floor, the little hammer furiously hitting the bells, piercing my sleepy haze.

I picked it up and switched it off, realizing Ethan wanted to make sure that Mom still got her wake-up call even when he is gone.

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