What to Do When You’re Trying for Alone Time and Your Kids Wake Up Too Early

“Please, not today”, I would think silently to myself as I would hear wobbly, bare feet on a cold dusty floor trample down the hallway toward the kitchen where I sat at the table, reading or typing or most likely both. As someone who purposefully awakens early just to experience her life alone, just for a moment, that quiet pause dutifully interrupted and drawn to a screeching halt puts a damper on the brightest of mornings.
With an exaggerated sigh, I shut my book and toss the pen carelessly to the side, and repeat the exact phrase from the morning before. And the morning before that, and the morning before that: “Son? Are you supposed to get out of your bed and wander around the house in the mornings?”

Shyly he would always smile, and hang his head in mischief, and take his beloved blue dog’s ear out of his mouth and whisper, “No!

“Then go on back to your room, ok?” I would say in an obviously disappointed tone, at which point the other two would hear that one was awake, which presumes that all should awaken, and thus the day begins and my solitude ends.

It was like living life on repeat; each morning he would enter earlier and earlier, and the more intense and desperate my frustration became. I threatened, I disciplined, I raised my voice. But every morning there he was again, ready to see if this time it would be different.

And one morning, he was right. It would be different. He planned a carefully executed sneak attack, crawling around couches and shielding himself with decorative throw pillows truly believing I would be oblivious to his antics. Standing up and ready to take charge of the situation as I had so many other moments in the past, he posed a different inquiry:

“Mommy? Can I go out on the porch and watch the sunrise? I just want to see what it looks like”.

Speechless, I watched him scurry past me and take his place in the wooden porch rocker as an audience of one, observing in awe as the sky burst into shades of pink , gold, and blue. Fog rolled off of the mountains just over the barn, and the rooster began his daily roll call.

“Wow! That was beautiful!” he said. It suddenly occurred to me that he had unknowingly inched his wake time earlier and earlier to meet with the sun.

As all mornings prior, I began to hear movement inside, so we returned indoors and he sat next to me on the couch as I cleaned fingerprints off of the lens of my oversized glasses with my stretched out nightshirt. As my husband straightened his tie and gave his shoes a final shine before work, August uttered the words that changed my mornings forever:

“Daddy? Do you know why I get up early in the mornings? Because every morning I sneak into the kitchen to check on Mommy. And I see her just sitting there by herself. So I go and sit with her, so she will never have to feel alone”.

Maybe you have a child that wakes up at the crack of dawn. Maybe you are exhausted and overwhelmed. Maybe, just maybe, they are not waking up early to frustrate or anger you. They just want to BE with you.

One day I will be alone. I will be in this house, by myself, drinking my coffee. All that time I strived for quiet will have finally arrived and all I will want to do is turn it off. The sun will still rise over those same mountains, shedding blinding light into a kitchen window that will have once been littered with fingerprints. That book I shut every morning in frustration as an interrupted young mother will still be there, because I will always need the Bible, and should have read it more and taken to heart that the Lord is serious about loving His children.

So, when he wakes up tomorrow, I will say nothing. Because my words are not why he is there. He simply wants to fill a void inside of me of which I was unaware. He wants his mother, for only a few minutes, before her life of unintended distraction begins its day. And to see, once again, what the sunrise looks like.


(the following story is taken from my Lifestyles column, Letters from the Nest, in the November 6th edition of the LaFollette Press, with the original title, What the Sunrise Looks Like.)

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Christie Elkins
Christie Elkins is a mother of 3, cop's wife and Junior Mint lover. She writes at lettersfromthenest.com and is a columnist for her hometown newspaper, The LaFollette Press. Christie and her family live on a farm in the Appalachian mountains of East Tennessee, where sweet tea is served at every meal and hospitality is second nature.