The first time my five-year-old grandson spent the night at our house he woke up before 5:00 a.m. This really should not have surprised me because I know he wakes up early every day at home. As a matter of fact, part of the reason I had him sleep over was so his parents could get an extra hour or two of sleep. Of course, with a three-year-old and a seven-month-old still at home the possibility of that happening was rather low.
Nevertheless, we planned the sleepover and he was extremely excited about it....so excited that he woke up around midnight and could not get back to sleep for two hours. Although I wished he would fall right back to sleep, I consoled myself with the assumption that he would make up for those two hours in the morning and sleep until 7:00. This was an erroneous assumption.
By 4:45 a.m., he was wide awake and ready for the day to begin. I was wide awake too, but not ready for the day to begin. I kept trying to find a way to make him fall back to sleep, but nothing worked. Back-rubbing and lullaby-singing did not work. Logical explanations about how tired he would be later on did not work. Pathetic descriptions of how tired I would be later on did not work.
So we got up and began the day. But we had to be quiet so that we didn't wake anyone else up and it didn't seem to me like he could really being having much fun with me saying, "Remember we have to be really quiet" every five minutes. To be honest, it probably wasn't much fun for him to see the look on my face when he would forget and make a lot of noise.
I thought about this for a few days after the sleepover and decided that the next time he slept over I would take him to see the sunrise. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I would wake him up (turnabout is fair play!) when it was still dark. We would dress quietly and leave the house. I decided to add a sunrise picnic to the plan. He was more than enthusiastic when I told him what an adventure we would have.
Memorial Day provided the perfect opportunity. No pre-school for him. No work for my husband. Nothing that had to be done early in the morning. He came at dinner time Sunday night and had his two favorite foods - plain pizza and applesauce. I expected to get him to bed early because he usually goes to bed quite early....no doubt exhausted from rising at the crack of dawn. But he was too excited to sleep. We were using the bed in the guest room which has a great view of the sunset. So I kept the blinds open and watched the sunset. Then I closed the blinds, assuming he would drift quickly off to sleep. Another faulty assumption on my part.
Just thinking about getting up and leaving the house in the dark was so exciting that he could not fall asleep. He would look and sound like he was asleep. Just as I would start to tiptoe out of the room, he would pop up and ask "Is it time to get up in the dark yet?"
His level of anticipation was so high that he woke up about once an hour all night. Luckily, he was able to fall right back to sleep. Until.....
Until 3:30 a.m. This was a full hour before I planned to get up. Again, I tried back-rubbing and lullaby-singing to no avail. As I rubbed and sang, a pitiful thought crossed my mind....wouldn't it be nice if someone would rub my back and sing to me every night. I want to be asleep. He doesn't. He should be rubbing my back and singing lullabies to me....
Realizing that would never happen, and also realizing that I was simply making my self more tired, I laid back and told him that we had to wait until 4:30 to get up so he should close his eyes and sleep. I think he tried to comply. If tossing and turning is any indication of trying to fall asleep, he was definitely trying. Covers up, covers down, feet hanging off the side of the bed, arms across my neck, feet wedged between my calves, arms behind his head. He tried one position after another and eventually it was close enough to 4:30 for me to give up.
We got up, dressed quickly, grabbed the pre-packed picnic bag and headed into the night. It was just beginning to get barely light out and I was beginning to wonder if I had waited too long. We drove to my chosen spot - one recommended as the place where one of the local churches has a sunrise service on Easter. But this chosen spot happened to be across the street from the town's baseball diamond and this looked way more appealing to him.
So we carried our gear across the street, walked down the hill and laid out our picnic on the baseball diamond. The view was definitely not as good, but he seemed happy and the sun would have to rise above the surrounding trees eventually. A ten minute wait can be very long to a 5-year-old. It can be pretty long to the grandmother of a 5-year-old too. So I decided that if we stood on the bleachers we would see the sun appear sooner.
By now, it was clear to me that this was not going to be one of those spectacular gold and pink streaked sunrises. I was disappointed. I wanted his first sunrise to be gloriously impressive. This one was going to be run of the mill. I thought of telling him that this wasn't the kind of sunrise I had planned. But then I looked at his face, lit up with anticipation and I realized how silly I was being. This was a great adventure no matter how pink the sunrise.
It was early morning. We were the only people there. No cars were going by and the birds were singing. It was peaceful. It was beautiful in its simplicity and it was joyful. I stopped for a minute to take it all in. The sun was just beginning to show over the trees.
Once the sun crowned the top of the trees it became too bright to look at. But I didn't want our adventure to be over. So I drove to a lake where I knew the reflection of the sun on the water would be beautiful. When we got there he recognized it as a place we had hiked during the summer. I asked him if he wanted to follow the trail and he said yes. It is a short trail that leads to a field and a tiny beach. We were the only people there and the sun was shining softly through the leaves making shadows and patterns of light. I kept pointing out how pretty it was.
I don't know if he was even paying attention as I pointed to the way the light shone on certain leaves, or how the shadows played on the rocks. It didn't matter. He was enjoying the moment for whatever it was to him. As we reached the water's edge two ducks swam into view. The sun sparkled on the water. He watched with fascination. When the ducks left our view, we headed back down the trail to our car, holding hands and singing "Zip A Dee Doo Dah Zip A Dee Ay, My oh my, what a wonderful day."
It had already been a wonderful day and it was only 5:45 a.m!