“Mommy,” my oldest daughter whispers to me in the black night.
My eyes reluctantly open, and it’s too dark to make out more than the profile of her little nose, as she presses her face close to mine.
I make her lie down in my bed, handing her a book, and I switch on the lamp that used to be my grandmother’s. I flip on its lowest setting, so that she can probably faintly see the letters and pictures in the story I’ve offered to her.
This dance—of me pretending that I’ll be able to fall back asleep, or that she’ll be happy for longer than a few minutes looking at a book in this semi-blackness—begins to feel absurd as she starts to whimper, and I start to crave coffee.
We get up together.
We tiptoe into the bathroom, using “quiet feet.”
We try to keep baby sister and her daddy asleep.
She sits on the potty while I take a quick, warm shower. After, I pour more hot water into the aeropress coffee maker that I ritualistically use each day, and I get my daughter a cup of kefir and cereal.
I realize, as I finish making my coffee and turn on another Netflix show for her, that this is the kind of morning that will feel like noon at barely 9 o’clock.
I think of my early-rising child, and of all the times she’s woken up well before five-thirty (many, many times).
Three years ago, when she was two or so, we would arrive together at the hot yoga studio that has childcare during its morning class. I would have already eaten, with plenty of hours to digest my food. I would have had two mugs of coffee. Most mornings I would have also taken a bath with my daughter, too—soaking my sore, tired mother-body in the bathwater that we usually colored blue, red, or a purple mix.
I would arrive at this yoga studio, and I would be well into my day—well into an attitude of how my day was going, rather than sleep-fog-eyed like the other students, with days far reaching ahead, and this class to begin their mood, not meld into an already-created one.
And I chose my mood on those mornings, more often than not.
I came to understand that my daughter couldn’t help her early-to-bed, early-to-rise body, and that, truthfully, she was the one doing it right, not the rest of the world staying up until midnight watching shitty television. More than this, I understood that if I entered this dawning day giving myself permission to feel tired, but excited for its brand-new uniqueness, that this colored the rest of how my morning unraveled.
It’s a potentially saccharine-cheesy truth, but it’s genuine.
I could as easily smile at my happy-to-be-awake-and-play-with-Mommy child, and groggily, but gratefully, wake myself up by slowly reading books or sipping coffee, as I could internally bitch about how exhausted I was.
This isn’t to neglect that I was an utterly exhausted human being for a long time, up until very recently. This isn’t to pretend that life doesn’t hand us difficulties, much beyond having to wake up early.
It’s not to suggest that I still don’t daydream about sleeping in until ten—or nine—or eight!
It’s not to pretend that I don’t “need” my coffee, so much as create a soothing morning self-care ritual with it.
It’s just that I’ve come to appreciate how much of my life is a choice, and this realization has helped me feel empowered and in control when I easily could have felt otherwise.
So this morning I kissed the top of my daughter’s curly hair. I whispered to her that I loved her, and I asked her what she was most looking forward to today. (Her response was simple and sweet: “friends.”)
I wondered at my own question, asking myself silently, “What are you most looking forward to today, Jennifer?”
My answer arrived in a fluid wave of gratitude and emotion.
I’m thankful for my two eyes opening this morning, that let me look upon this gentle, loving face of my daughter (and, later, my husband and our baby). I’m looking forward to a day that just might wind up being the best day of my life.