Every morning, my fourteen-month-old baby wakes up screaming. He never has a gentle, peaceful acclimation to the wakeful state, but rather expresses angry resentment that he’s forced to face the day. He’s certainly not lacking in sleep. He goes to bed at 7 p.m. and sleeps for a solid twelve hours. Last night it was thirteen, yet he still woke up mad. But, as soon as I reach into the crib to pluck him out, wet-faced and snotty, wearing his dress-like, zipped-up sleeping bag, he babbles passionately and points to the window. That’s his favourite place to go first thing in the morning. So we walk across the carpet, I pull up the blinds, and he stands on the wooden bench beneath the window to look out at the world.
He studies his surroundings attentively, smushing his face up against the glass and leaving smears from the leftover Penaten cream on his chin. He observes the heavily falling snow, the dark skeletal winter trees, the silhouettes of the neighbourhood houses that stand out against the lightening eastern sky. When a car goes by, spewing clouds of fluffy snow from its tires as it spins and fights its way to the plowed main road, he points excitedly, pressing a chubby finger against the glass. When the big snow plow rumbles past, scraping the snow off our street and pushing it into that dreaded, impenetrable bank of heavy snow that blocks the driveway and requires a good half-hour of shovelling to get the car out, he shrieks with glee and dances on the spot. If Walter comes out of his house across the street to put out the recycling, the baby flaps his dimpled hand in greeting, but Walter doesn’t notice his little observer.
He would stand there forever, unaware of his soggy nighttime diaper and the awkward bag that trails behind him and makes standing on the bench rather perilous; I keep a hand on his back all the time because I don’t want him to tumble off. It seems that once he’s had his fill of watching the world, meditating on his little place in its vast midst, then the proverbial tank is full. He’s recharged, renewed, and ready to face the day. I change him, dress him, and we head downstairs for breakfast with the rest of the family, joining the chaos that never ends.
When he first started gesturing toward the window, wanting to stand there and watch for much longer than I did, I found it frustrating. I was in a rush to get him downstairs to start my day, but I’ve come to enjoy his little ritual. By insisting we look out the window, he forces me to slow down, notice small details like who’s done their shovelling and who’s out walking their dog and what the weather’s like, and gives me a sliver of peaceful quiet time that helps to set the tone for the rest of my day. Kids certainly teach us a lot, but I never would have expected my baby to teach me the importance of stopping to observe the beauty of each morning, yet that’s exactly what he does.