Rise Up Like a Lion
This morning, my bank account took an unexpected hit. It cost me the proverbial arm and a leg just to coax my sleeping kids out of bed.
Because even though I added my own bleary-eyed prayer as I said Modeh Ani – “Please, Hashem, let my children rise up like lions,” – the only roars I heard came from deep beneath their covers.
“I’m too tired.”
“There’s no way I’m getting up.”
“Please can I have five more minutes?”
But school bus drivers wait for no man, and this working mother’s schedule has very little wiggle room for kids who miss their buses.
So, I did whatever I could to rouse my sleeping lions.
I shook their shoulders gently. Nothing.
I tried to take off their covers, but they snatched them back with the ferocity of alligator jaws. Snap.
I sang a cheery song my husband’s grandmother used to sing when he slept over at her house – “Waking up in the morning, what a very special day” – but they only buried their heads deeper under their pillows. (Yeah, I wouldn’t want to hear my voice this early in the morning either).
But while they snored, the clock kept ticking, and I was running out of options. So that’s when I pulled out my trump card: Bribery.
“Listen, kiddos, if you get out of bed nicely……”
I saw their ears perk up beneath their blankets. Really? She’s ready to negotiate? This might get interesting….
In my defense, I tried to be strategic about it. I tried to bribe them in a budget-friendly, non-spoiling way. “If you get out of bed nicely and you’re ready for the bus on time,” I proposed, “you’ll each get to choose your favorite supper for one night this week.”
Pretty reasonable, right?
But I forgot that my 8-year-old negotiates like he works for a SWAT team. His response was swift. “My favorite supper is sushi.” (Ah. Store-bought food is his favorite supper. Don’t think about what that says about my culinary skills).
It was an absurd request.
Sushi is for special occasions.
Sushi is for Yom Tov or birthdays or a month without detention. Sushi is not just for getting out of bed like you’re supposed to.
And yet, desperate mothers make for terrible negotiators. “Fine,” I said before I could stop myself. “If you get up nicely and you make your bus, I’ll buy you sushi for supper tonight.”
He popped out of bed faster than the speed of light, and I let out a shaky breath. One green dragon roll is a small price to pay to buy myself time to sip my coffee in peace – right?
But good bribes travel fast.
My daughter, who only minutes earlier had pretended to be in a sleep as deep as Choni haMaagal’s, suddenly sat up in the next bedroom and called out, “If he gets sushi just for getting out of bed, why can’t I get sushi?”
Because you’re older and wiser, I wanted to say.
And because I shouldn’t have to bribe someone who stays up schmoozing on the phone well past midnight – I should only have to threaten to stop paying the phone bill.
But the thought of coffee and silence was too tantalizing, and so I heard myself say what I knew I shouldn’t. “Fine. If you get up and make your bus, you can get sushi too.”
By now the word was out, and I was doomed. Even my three-year-old, who loves waking up early on Shabbos and Sunday mornings but knows to sleep in when his mother wants him up, woke mid-snore to ask, “Can I have sushi too if I go to school nicely?”
Seriously? I used to be able to bribe him with chocolate chips and bags of pretzels. Inflation is a killer!
So, with the promise of crispy tempura and spicy mayo hanging in the air, I managed to coax them all out of bed, wriggle them into their clothing, wrestle them into their coats, and chase them outside (“Wait! You forgot your homework sheet!”) just in time for them to catch their buses, or, in the case of my three-year-old, to whisk him off to his carpool.
I stumbled back inside, feeling both triumphant and pathetic.
Sure, I got my quiet and my coffee, but after years of mothering experience, shouldn’t I have figured out a more effective way of handling this morning madness? Shouldn’t I have some chart or incentive program or hypnosis method that gets them marching like happy little soldiers out the door?
Because they aren’t happy little soldiers. They are (sometimes) happy little people who are lot like the big people in their life – they struggle when their routine feels old and crusty and unexciting.
By the time we reach this time of year, it’s hard to jump out of bed like a lion (most days, I feel more like a tired old tabby).
It’s cold outside.
It’s already been a lot of days of school without a break.
There’s no extended vacation on the horizon.
How can I blame my kids when there are a lot of mornings when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed too. When I snooze my alarm too many times. When I get up feeling tense, frazzled, and overtired. When I’m raising my voice, sending my kids off with tension instead of joy, with guilt and remorse instead of an “I love you! Have a great day!”
Bribing might not be great, but it’s better than the alternative – losing my cool and shooing my kids out the door in stress-filled haze, and that happens more often than I want to admit.
There are options available to me other than bribing or yelling – I can go to sleep earlier, wake up earlier, and drink my coffee before they wake up, so I am calm and unhurried when the morning routine begins.
And I’m working on it.
But I’m not a trained little soldier either, so until I iron out my middos and perfect this mothering thing that is my life’s work, I offer another solution: delegate!
If I’m already spending my hard-earned money to get my kids to school on time, I’d be more than happy to hire someone who could do the job for me. In fact, I’d gladly give up a few hours of cleaning help to hire a professional vekker to whom I can hand off my duties.
Yes, a vekker! The legend of yore who made the rounds of a yeshivah dorm. The kind who will go room to room and pull off blankets, flip mattresses, pour water over sleeping children’s heads, and hoist people up by their pajama pants.
How nice would that be!
Hiring one fulltime might be pricey, but in the long run, it’ll save me from having to lay out the cash for sushi dinners (or at least I can save those bribes for other, equally important challenges like convincing my kids to do their homework or to keep their hands off each other while fighting over who gets the front seat.)
I might be dreaming, but it’s worth a shot: Anyone out there up for the job?