They read, now. They sleep, too. They quietly hunker in their beds, waiting for the day to call them, but the day is subtle and they are slow to hear.
When my children were infants, I learned the adage, “never wake a sleeping baby.” Never assume a schedule takes precedence over these small bodies, small universes crafting their own timing. Hungry for quiet, myself, I made my own schedule a liquid one. If they were restless, rummaging for things to do, I could find them the right project. If they hadn’t eaten, a snack would appear before they thought about it. If they were quiet—especially if TWO of them were quiet, or napping, I was quiet, too.
Last summer Madeleine and Brendan would wake quietly, early. I’d walk into the living room at 6 a.m. and find children playing with paper dolls or blocks, the floor covered. Brendan, the younger, would say, “hi Mama. What should I do today?” And he’d come ask me the same thing, every ten minutes or so. They would tussle over toys and floor territory by 7 a.m., and that’s how I would wake, to whines or yelling matches or someone claiming the other was unfair, or the Chinese water torture of a boy asking for something to do.
This summer, our schedules shifted to fit nighttime little league games and my children discovered nighttime. As parents, we’ve grown slack in the bedtime department. They stay up late, and they sleep in, for the first time ever, every day. And when they wake, they do not eat or brush teeth or dress or brush hair. They read. Endlessly.
Sometimes these children can be enticed to do chores, fantastical chores like cleaning the grill (blasting the pieces with water from the hose) or mopping the floor (he doesn’t know I HATE mopping the floor and would avoid it far longer than I should). Madeleine helped me cut out fabric for window shades, and iron on the backing. She’s baked twenty loaves of bread this summer, finding just the right recipe after all those rainy June days. I say, “let’s wrap presents for Shauna,” and she rushes to the attic to find the supplies. All the while, piles of stuff mysteriously stack up on the kids’ shelves and desk, and the kids’ floor sprouts piles of papers, art supplies, half-finished projects. “Astounding chores” are completed. Everyday chores are ignored.
For their sake, I worry about energy levels, muscle strength, vitamin D reserves, sugar lows, and the general lack of industry for anything but reading. I worry that perhaps they are not moving because they are dehydrated. I worry because I don’t want to DEMAND that they get out of bed and interact with the world.
On the other hand, dear friends, I am still a grad student and I still have work to do. I am packing for a long journey, and preparing a lecture and a reading. My reading is about 15 pages too long, and “cutting” pages is hell for me. It requires concentration. I’ve collected plenty of material for my lecture, but it’s not yet completely organized. I need to print hundreds of pages of workshop material from other writers, and my tickets and itinerary, (and the TSA laws for carrying knitting needles).
I wonder if I ought to be doing something differently, if there will be a price to pay when we adapt to the school schedule again, if letting them be lazy is negligence on my part. In my small-town youth, I slept and read books. Not much was required of me. My mother was working in the garage, or thinking through her day, or writing a letter. Sometimes I’d wake to find no one at home, a note on the table saying where I could find her. I’d rustle up some breakfast and talk to the cat and open a book.
Soon I will be traveling and my crew of childcare folks will bring in new energy. The kids will throw on bathing suits and go outside and do things. No one will need to tell them to move from bed, so many exciting things to do.
Meanwhile, far be it from me to wake the sleeping babies, who are not really sleeping. I will take each of them a cup of raspberries from the garden, in a few minutes. After I get a little work done.