When my son was 2 years old, he’d wake up at 5:50 a.m. raring to go. I’d pick him up from his crib, and we’d drive to Lowes as soon as it opened and cruise the tool aisles for fun. After a solid 30 minutes of pretending to ride the lawn mowers, we’d collapse in a patio swing. I’d rock him to sleep and wish I had drunk more coffee. Those days seem like a lifetime ago, but also like yesterday.
Today, my son’s alarm clock rings at 5:50 a.m. and he’s up and at ’em before I climb out of bed. As a high school freshman, his days are long. School starts at 7:20 a.m. and his sports program doesn’t end until 8 p.m. Add homework and chores to the mix, and his schedule is grueling. I want to help him, but what’s a mom to do?
When my son was a toddler, I’d set out a bowl of dry cereal and a creamer full of milk so he could “make” breakfast for himself. He’d pour the milk into the bowl, and if he spilled it was no big deal, because it wasn’t the full carton. Sometimes he’d drag a chair over to the kitchen sink and “wash” the dishes. I’d mop the scene up with a bath towel and rewash everything when he wasn’t looking.
Now, my son is the master of efficiency. Every other week we go to the grocery store and he purchases ingredients to meal-prep smoothies. He lays glass containers on the counter in a mass assembly line and makes 14 breakfasts at once. Berries, oats, bananas and chia seeds; sometimes he adds spinach to be extra healthy. All the kits go into the freezer.
On weekday mornings, when I blunder into the kitchen for my first cup of java, my son blends his breakfast and washes the pitcher as soon as he’s finished. Sometimes I rewash the pitcher after he leaves for school, but only because chia seeds get stuck.
When my son was 2, we’d read books together on the couch by the living room window. We called it the “cozy corner” and spent at least an hour a day plowing through library books. There was a toy kitchen in front of the fireplace and a big container of wood blocks that was usually dumped on the floor. I dreamed of alone time. Heck, I would have even settled for 15 minutes of silence. We were together every second of every day.
Now my son is almost never home. I barely see him except when I drive my Mom Taxi, or slide a dinner plate in front of him that I reheated in the microwave. The days of continual togetherness are over. The living room is clean. The cozy corner is empty. The house is blanketed by quiet.
I know in my heart that yesterday, today or tomorrow, when the clock says 5:50 a.m. and my son is down the hall, I better not take his presence for granted. It’s a glorious time to wake up when it’s for someone you love.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at email@example.com.