In a rare moment of Mama Genius, I contrived a way to bank an extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning. While the increased daylight hours work wonders to improve my mood, the earlier sunrise also works against me since the moment a ray of sunshine creeps through her blinds, Abigail bolts out of bed full of energy and brings that energy right into our bed. It was getting a little painful to be jolted out of a deep sleep at six o’clock by a 3.5 year old dumping a Tianna jigsaw puzzle on us and urging us to wake up and help piece it together. “Just snuggle with us for a few minutes first,” I’d urge our life-size alarm clock. She would agree, but after about ten seconds, the temptation to play hide-and-seek in the covers was too enticing at which point one of us would cave and indulge her while the other shuffled off to the kitchen to procure two giant mugs of strong, strong coffee.
Then I had a brainstorm. It involved an old cardboard diaper box, several sheets of construction paper, glitter glue, markers and stickers. I am not a crafty Mama – in fact, I loathe anything that involves glue because in case you haven’t noticed, the stuff doesn’t last more than like two weeks without caking up and requiring a freaking toolkit to get back in working order. I have cursed so many tubes of Elmer’s, it’s a miracle my daughters don’t refer to it as “this f**k#ing crappy excuse for a product.” But my idea was so genius, that I was willing to tackle yet another tube. I arranged all the supplies and then fetched the girls from their nap.
“We’re making a big girl box for Abigail!” I announced to which Abigail’s eyes lit up and Paige declared that she had made a poopy. As I took care of the poopy I explained the concept: we would decorate a big box with glitter and stickers (“I want it to be pink with lots of sparkles and princesses!!!!” Abigail shrieked). Then, we fill it with all kinds of things for the morning – an outfit to put on ALL BY YOURSELF, a few puzzles since we are well aware of the a.m. jigsaw compulsion, a coloring book and crayons, and after you go to sleep, Mama will put a surprise breakfast in too. “With a special treat?” Hey, if you let me sleep an extra half hour and don’t wake me by jumping on my skull, I’ll buy out all the remaining king size candy bars they are taking off the market and you can suck down as many special treats as you want while I snooze.
As we worked diligently pasting construction paper onto the box (I only lost my temper twice over the glue!), making giant glitter swirls, strategically placing stickers, and scrawling “Abigail’s Big Girl Box” in giant purple letters, we discussed what would happen the following morning. While she was a little nervous about being all by herself while waiting for us to wake up, her fears were overshadowed by the visions I could see churning away in her head of her new grown up privileges. Plus, I told her she could bring Otis, her stuffed owl, downstairs with her to keep her company.
The next morning, my eyes fluttered open at 6:20…WITHOUT ANYONE DUMPING A JIGSAW PUZZLE ON ME!! Could this be? Was I really waking up on my own? I looked beside me. James was still asleep. It was a miracle. I was so excited, I jumped out of bed and started to beeline it for the living room to see if the Big Girl Box was in use. But I skidded to a stop en route. What, was I crazy? Why the hell was I about to interrupt quiet toddler time? Instead, I put my ear to the door and listened. I heard some shuffling around followed by the crinkling of a wrapper (aha! She discovered the Cinderella fruit smack special treat), a little slurping of the juice box, and then some chatter with Otis regarding the strategy of piecing together Madeline’s hat on the new puzzle I had thrown in the box. As far as I could tell, nothing had broken and no one was hurt which gave me a window of opportunity to shower and get ready without a few rounds of Simon Says (aka Abigail Says) thrown in. Without any interruption, I was able to get ready in record time and when I finally ventured out to the living room, I was met with a fully dressed and fed daughter coloring happily beside a completed jigsaw of Madeline.
Has the Big Girl Box worked this smoothly every morning since? No. Some mornings she is not dressed, one morning her apple juice box had exploded, and this morning she brought the box upstairs to the room she shares with Paige and the two of them managed to completely destroy the room with puzzle pieces. But the bottom line is this: we have consistently gained an extra half hour of sleep, but more importantly, we are awakening to the sounds of birds chirping and the faint sound of the coffee maker starting the daily brew rather than demands for hide-and-seek and crushed limbs. I’d say the battle with the glue and the occasional spill or puzzle piece tornado is well worth it. And just for the record, I realize I have just written a brief dissertation touting my maternal genius and I would like to point out that I did so simply because I have had so many failed ideas as a mother that I really felt the need to gloat. If you attempt a Big Girl (or Boy) Box and it fails miserably, don’t get down on your parental abilities – I’m sure your one up on me in the glue department.