Hurry Up and Grow Up!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Kids seem to be little for soooo long…

My son Riley is five and a half years old but he still wakes before 6am. I can hear the groans of empathy through the internet airwaves, thank you, mums.

Sometimes, just sometimes, he makes it to 7am and I think maybe once or twice in all his years, he has made it past 8am. Those were the times I had to go in and poke him to make sure he was still breathing.

I think the wake-early problem is because he’s a light sleeper. Every night before I collapse in an exhausted heap on my pillow, I creep into my kids’ rooms, fuss with their blankets, smooth the hair away from their foreheads and give them sleepy sandman kisses on the tips of their noses. Ella sometimes has trouble falling asleep, but once she’s under, she lays there like a fallen log, heavily encapsulated in slumber, her limbs seemingly filled with sand, sometimes lightly snoring. My husband, indeed, calls her The Log. You could probably hold a clacking mahjong game with some local Chinese grannies on her bedroom floor and she still wouldn’t flutter an REM eyelid.

Riley, on the other hand, sits up the moment I soundlessly sneak open his door. He’s not quite awake when he does it, but he sits up, nonetheless, with his head rolling around on top of his shoulders. I gently lay him down again and he fusses a little when I try to land kisses on his face, then I creep out again.

Why am I telling you all this? It’s because I like my sleep. I mean, really like it. And after around 8 years of not getting a solid 8 hours, I’m getting kinda tired of it (‘scuse the pun). So, when Riley trit-trotted into our bedroom this morning after my particularly late night, all I could think was “bring on the days when you are 16 and I have to bang on pots and pans to get you out of bed.” In fact, I think this same thought most mornings. Yes, yes, I actually squeeze my eyes shut and wish my beautiful little boy’s life away.

The trouble with wishing is that you might just get what you want. My mother-in-law always tells me not to rush through my kids’ childhood - “…these are the best years of your life,” she oft reminds me. I know, I know – I can hear the laughter from here as you read this, mum of small kids. Sure, it can be tough, especially when kids are really young or you have four of them under the age of five or have no ayi or something mad crazy like that. But isn’t it always the way that you can’t see the forest for the trees? That it’s not until you can look back in cool, calm hindsight that you realise how good you had it? Even now, can’t you look back and appreciate the surreal joy of having a newborn baby? (Ok, granted – your kids should probably have at least five years under their belt, and you should have caught up on about 18 years of sleep to truly remember this joy.)

I recently waded through some home video, and sat entranced and weepy at the sight of my daughter watering plants in pink gumboots and a spotted pair of knickers, in the garden of our house in Australia. She was only 18 months old and was chattering away like a teenager. At the time, she was a handful and early-motherhood was somewhat chaotic, but looking back with the combined numbing effect of time and sheer affection – my mother-in-law was right – it was bliss and I would trade 10 hours of my day right now to have a single minute with her back then. Where did the time go?

So, this morning, I’ve thought long and hard about my wishing-life-away, and I’ve realised that it may be 5.50am when you receive them, but getting little boy butterfly kisses on your eyelashes beats empty, echoing hallways of children who have flown the coop, any day.

Now I think I finally know what my mother-in-law meant.

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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