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Why Parents Should Wake Up Before the Kids

Studies have consistently shown that Americans get too few hours of sleep nightly.  Perhaps as a result of this, most of us treasure every last moment of sleep that we can get.  We hit the snooze button repeatedly.  We roll over and go back to sleep for just a little bit.  We thoroughly enjoy the peace of those restful moments in the twilight between wake and sleep.  Why, then, should parents bother waking up before kids do?  What are some healthy habits parents — particularly working parents — can establish in those early morning minutes before the kids’ day starts?

Picture this:  You’re lying in bed, savoring the opportunity to yawn and stretch, when you hear a crash in another room of your home.  You spring to your feet and sprint to your kitchen to find your toddler standing on the glass shards that are the remains of one of your crystal wine glasses, shards that have wide coverage over your kitchen floor.  You examine your toddler’s bloodied feet and determine that glass fragments are embedded in the wounds and a trip to the emergency room is now necessary.

Or picture this:  You’ve hit snooze as many times as you reasonably can.  When you get up, you’re on the fly . . . rushing to shower and dress so as not to be late for the rest of your day.  In your haste, you fail to recognize that you’re wearing one blue shoe and one black shoe.  Your toddler is already up and watching TV.  You place a bowl of breakfast cereal and a glass of juice in front of him while he finishes the program he’s watching, and then you begin the morning battle to get him washed,  dressed, and out the door to pre-school.

In the alternative, picture this:  You arise before your toddler, shower and get ready for your day while your toddler sleeps.  No need to perform your ablutions in hurried or distracted fashion as you are the master of your schedule and you are the only waking being in your home.  When you are dressed, you prepare a warm and nutritious breakfast for him (and yourself) and awaken him in time to entice him to the table with the aroma of fresh-baked breakfast foods.  When the two of you have finished your meal together, talking over the day each of you plans to have, you have the time and peace of mind to nudge him in his morning routine (washing, dressing, and heading to pre-school) without feeling harried, short of patience, or pressed for time.

In sum, arising before your kids allows you the opportunity to keep your kids safe (i.e., from glass shards), well nourished (i.e., a warm and healthy breakfast), and feeling loved (i.e., a peaceful, not harried morning in which you share a seated meal together and good conversation, and you nudge rather than rush them through their morning routine).  Additionally, you can perform your own morning routine peacefully and without distraction . . . and notice any grooming missteps before (rather than after) you report to work.

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