One of the most obvious changes that has taken place as our kids have grown older is the way our mornings unfold.
There was a time, before Toby and Kara arrived, when I would regularly be found awake at 3am cuddling a one-year-old Isaac in front of the TV in our darkened living room. We would repeatedly watch a recording of a Suzanne Vega concert – the one thing guaranteed to soothe him to sleep.
At the age of five, while Toby would be sound asleep in his bed and baby Kara was in her cot or feeding, Isaac would awaken automatically between 4:30 and 5am and insist on someone (generally me) accompanying him downstairs, even if it was to sleep on the sofa while he watched TV. He has always been a social creature, one who craves company and hates being alone.
By his seventh birthday last December, 5am had become a slightly more civilised – or perhaps that should be ‘slightly less uncivilised’? – 5:45 to 6am. Even so, that meant no lie-in at weekends. I would typically get up with him and Toby for an hour or two – time enough for me to sleep through a couple of old Top Gears – then swap places with Heather and grab another hour in bed.
In the last few months, however, the boys have discovered Minecraft. When they wake up in the morning they quietly take themselves downstairs and build together in their own little shared world until the 45-minute daily time limit on Isaac’s tablet locks them out.
It means that we now have the relative luxury of sleeping in past 6:30 on weekdays if we want to. On Saturdays we’ll even make it as far as 7:45, at which point the whole family gathers on the sofa for our weekly ritual of watching the new Thunderbirds Are Go before sitting down to breakfast together, A family breakfast was something that never happened under the old regime – having done the first shift, I would be back in bed – and which I now enjoy immensely.
It’s a whole different world now. A combination of the boys’ new routine and Kara also sleeping in later means that our day doesn’t start so early any more. That means Heather and I can enjoy more of an evening as she doesn’t crawl into bed and turn into a pumpkin by 10:30 every night.
Do I feel guilty that we’re taking advantage of the boys enjoying some daily screen time, albeit strictly limited, every morning? A little bit. But it’s a small price to pay to allow the boys to share an activity they both love and for us to enjoy a little more time in bed, even if it is with Kara having crawled in between us for a morning snuggle.
It’s funny how your perspective changes as a parent, though. Pre-kids, 7:45am on a Saturday would have been an early start. Now it feels like the equivalent of midday. I’m not complaining, though!