My Toddler’s Wake-Up Time Dictates My Mood for the Day

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The unmistakable sound of crying filters through my toddler’s monitor, and I want to burst into tears myself. I don’t have the energy to crack even one eye open to check the time, but I can tell from the way my head feels — foggy, cloudy, zombie-like — that it’s not as late as I want it to be. Maybe he’ll fall asleep again, I think to myself. Yeah, and maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt. Nonetheless, my husband and I lie still, hoping and praying for just another 20 minutes of sleep. I try to drift back into unconsciousness when the crying starts up again. It’s useless. My toddler son is awake and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I finally muster the courage to look at the clock on my nightstand; it’s 5:20 a.m.

No, no, no, no, no, nooooooooooo!!! I cannot. wake up. at this hour. again.

We’re on day eight of this wake-up time, and I’m about to lose it. My son is adorable and a damn delight, but I don’t want to see or hear from him this early in the morning. I love him so much more after 6:00 a.m. Well, actually, 6:30 a.m., if I’m being honest. But he doesn’t seem to get that.

Full disclosure: I have been blessed with two children who sleep well, all things considered. My daughter, currently age 7, was sleeping 6-hour stretches at night basically from birth. Aside from never sleeping the full 12-hour cycle that I craved, she really did not disappoint in the sleep department. My son wasn’t quite such a champ, but overall I can’t complain. There have been many times, however, when I really wished both of them would just sleep later, for the love of all that is holy. My initial thought, as a new mom, was that I couldn’t bear to get up before 7 a.m. I quickly realized that was a pipe dream and switched it to 6:45. My daughter was able to maintain that wake-up time for years, if memory serves, and all was right with the world. Enter my son. Once we got past the unpredictable infant stage, I patiently explained to him that I needed to get back to my 6:45 wake-up time. He nodded and drooled, and I was so sure he understood. He had to, right?

I’m no spring chicken — I had my son at 44 — so I need kids who let me sleep. And I’m not asking for the impossible here; 6:45 is way reasonable, am I right? My son, however, had other ideas. 6:00 a.m. was more his bag, and I found myself desperately thinking, “OK, if you can’t give me 6:45, how about 6:30? Can we agree on 6:30? Pretty please, with an extra ounce of formula on top?” He laughed maniacally and said, “No way, mom.” OK, not really, but you get my point. Let’s be honest, when your toddler keeps the same schedule as the roosters, any time after 5:59 starts to look good. “Please,” I beg him. “Please, just don’t wake up in the 5s. Any time after 6:00, please, please, pleeeeeaaaase.”

And, while my toddler is often a 6:15 guy, there have been weeks — long, painful weeks — where he’s a pre-5:30 guy. And it is during those weeks that I turn into Bitch Mom. Bitch Mom is not the mom you want, let me tell you. Bitch Mom yells a lot and is constantly near tears. Bitch Mom says bad words. Bitch Mom moves through every hour like a zombie caught in molasses and is incredibly bitter that she has to use his nap time to take a nap herself when she has about 8,000 other things she could be doing during those two hours. And by the way, Bitch Mom will not go to bed earlier herself to accommodate the new wake up time, thank you very much, because Bitch Mom likes her evenings with her husband, and going to bed at 9pm is simply not an option. So, don’t even start with that.

As I’m trying to shape him into a good human being, he is simultaneously shaping me.

Look, there are toddlers who regularly wake up at 5:00 a.m., but from what I hear, these toddlers go to bed by 6:30 or 7:00. Mine is more of a 7:45/8:00 p.m. bedtime guy, so in my book, it is thoroughly unacceptable for him to wake up prior to 6:30. So when I hear crying in the monitor and I open my eyes to see that it’s 5:12, I know what kind of day it’s going to be. And when that happens for eight consecutive days, it’s not pretty. It’s downright ugly, and my daughter bears the brunt of it. Any false move she makes will unleash Bitch Mom, and believe me, Bitch Mom can find fault with anything. Rationally, I know this isn’t entirely fair. My daughter hasn’t done anything wrong, and my toddler is just that — a toddler, who doesn’t intend to drive me crazy. Regardless, that’s what winds up happening; his mood, behavior and wake-up time color my days. It’s funny how as I’m trying to shape him into a good human being, he is simultaneously shaping me (into, hopefully, a good and patient mom; albeit one who likes to rant about annoying toddler behaviors).

Mercifully though, after a week to 10 days of incredibly early wake ups, my son seems to realize that enough is goddamn enough, and he returns to his regularly scheduled wake-up time. We are currently in this stage, and it’s heaven on earth compared to the 5:15 days. I’m currently resigned to being ecstatic if I don’t hear him till after 6:00am. Most days he’s a 6:15 a.m. guy, staunchly refusing to be the 6:45 guy I so desperately wanted him to be, but I can live with it.

He’s lucky he’s cute.