Why I teach my toddler to rise at 5:30 am

Up until my mid 30’s I had a difficult time getting up in the morning.  As much as I loved the nightlife, there was always a  morning person nagging at me.

While staying up late to finish all that I needed and wanted to do, I would daydream about what it would be like to be up, exercised, showered and enjoying cup of coffee by the time the clock struck 8 am.  Alas, with so many events and bad TV to watch until the wee hours, I talked myself into the fact that I would never be one of those people.

Then horses happened.

Why I teach my toddler to rise at 5_30 am

I have owned and cared for horses all of my life, yet I can count on one hand the amount of times that I would get up at 5 am, go riding and then get to work.  Last year however, I leased my own barn and acquired a small herd of horses.  All of a sudden getting up at 5:00 am became a necessity….like 7 days a week.

By 6 a.m. I am feeding my mares. By 6:30, I’m turning them out after their morning grooming.  By 7 a.m. my stalls are clean, hay and grain is set, and I’m turning them out for the day.  By 8:30 a.m. I am moving laundry from the washer to the dryer, I’ve had a shower, and we’re eating breakfast as a family. By 9:00 am I am in my office at a boutique law firm downtown.

I’ve been doing this for a year now and let me tell you…I’ve never been happier, more productive or organized.  I’ve also never respected time more.  Free moments are now spent engaged in meaningful activities that grow me as a person; it has become very easy to separate myself from things that don’t support my best interest because there is literally no time for bullshit.

I’ve also gained a better appreciation for nature and weather, which surprises me because I thought that I always had that.  It took only one majestic sunrise with the sky so many colors that I’m not a talented enough writer to describe it to you, to captivate me.  Since then, I haven’t been the same…I’ve been better.  Yes snow, rain, sleet and day light savings time sort of cramp my style, but now an overcast and rainy day that some call gloomy to me is just a day to spend a little more time concentrating on inside projects for my home/barn/office.  Snow becomes beautiful as I watch it glisten under the very first rays of the sun as it crests the hill.  This appreciation is what mornings have taught me.

The early morning quiet has magic in it.  I find that I don’t need to look at a clock while I’m taking care of my horses as I become set to nature’s natural rhythm.  I allow thoughts to come and go in a sort of moving meditation.  This slow way of being where we can hear ourselves think and can follow our inner guidance is actually how God intended for us to be before iPhones, Androids and tablets.  Not that these things are not helpful, they’ve just taken over too much of our lives and thus block some of our natural senses…and so this is why I teach Dylan to rise at 5:30 am.

Some mothers reading this may think that I’m nuts, others may think that it’s a good thing, but it wouldn’t work for their family.  Both opinions are just fine.  However, I don’t mean that Dylan gets up every single morning at 5:30 am, because that is way too much for the age of 3.  Instead, I get him up this early a few times per month.  If he didn’t demonstrate a willingness I more than likely wouldn’t push the issue, but all you have to say is “let’s go feed horses” and he jumps into my arms.

In the car as we drive the 11 miles into the country from the city, we count trucks (his favorite), or he daydreams out the window.  Once at the barn, he is like a free range little chick who stays within earshot of me.  He gives the horses (way too many) horse treats.  He goes out into the field with them and just hangs out talking to them, petting and playing with them.  He digs in the dirt with his little trucks, and when he sees me going into the grain room to set the PM grain, he wants to scoop it and dump it into the buckets for me.  Every thing is an adventure or hands on learning experience, and at the very minimum it’s exercise and fresh air.  By the time we’re at home by 8:00, he’s worked up an appetite and is ready for the rest of the day.

I should note here that Dylan does not attend daycare, as he is always with a parent or a grandparent.  This means that he can sleep whenever he gets tired and isn’t tied to a strict structure of any kind.  Even still, I have found that on the days that he does not get up at 5:30 am and go to the barn with me he has a considerable amount of energy that he needs to expel, and he rarely takes a nap. There is just something about dirt, air, and horsehair I suppose!

Dylan and I have just naturally gravitated to this routine and it’s only recently that I’ve started to really think about what we are doing here.  Since then, I’ve drawn some conclusions that I’m comfortable standing by:  In todays society kids face serious challenges.  3 million children every year are deemed to be obese.  The structure of our educational system still pushes conformity and eradicates creativity.  According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children have a developmental disability, which is a 17% increase from 1997 to 2008 alone.  Why is this happening? What are we doing, or not doing, differently than before? I have many theories but one of the most fundamental in my humble opinion is discipline.  And if adults lack discipline, then how can children learn it?

As an equestrian, we have a saying: “It takes discipline to instill the discipline, to have discipline.” The irony being that you have to have discipline in order to get discipline, which you need for anything else in life.  It takes discipline to shut down electronics and get to bed, or do the homework assignment, or to say no to drugs. Therefore, I believe that the earlier discipline is modeled and practiced the better.   The good news is that discipline is a practice, and practice needs to be built upon so it is more than ok to go slowly.  This is yet another reason why I am starting now in toddlerhood instead of waiting until he’s a teenager.

I believe that the word “discipline” has become needlessly dirty over the years.  Rarely modeled by adults, it becomes forced or threatened.  A source of resentment if you will, when in fact it can look as simple as counting trucks on the highway over granola bars with the reward of sitting on the fence and watching the horses run around the pasture.  The next thing that Dylan knows is that he’s 19 years old, getting up by 6 am to study before hitting the gym to work out and or meet friends for breakfast before going to class.  Why would I wait to get him into this habit just as he’s about to leave the nest?

Ultimately, the real reason that teach I teach our toddler to greet the sun is that it sets him up for the greatest amount of success in life.  I study the personal habits highly successful CEO’s, Entrepreneurs, and multi-millionaires.  I am also lucky enough to personally know entrepreneurs that started from nada and took their companies internationally.  Not one of these people, not a single one, sleeps until noon.  Every single successful person that I know or study is up by 4:30-5:00 am.  They understand that the first hour of your day is the most important and will set the tone for the next 23.  These people capitalize on that hour by exercising, meditating, or reading.  I believe that rising early every morning is the basis to living a good life and I want my son to have a good life by giving him the chance to control his day, and not the other way around.

If all of this goes the other direction and one day our Dylan owns a nightclub in Brazil and he’s going to bed when the sun comes up, then I still want him to know how to greet the sun.  I want him to understand that every morning is a gift that is given to us by our Creator as a time to get into synch with nature and set the intention for the day to do something.  To create something.  To help people.  Every day is a part of our own personal legacy that we are leaving for the world to remember us by.  I want mine to say that I rise with the sun and I seize my opportunities – or as many as I can.  I also want that for our son.  In the end, if all our little Dylan gets out of this habit are some beautiful sunrises with mom while watching horses, well then I’m all for that too.

Wishing you and your littles many sunrises together.

 dylan

 

Want to do this too? Here are some tried and true tips.

  1. Allow plenty of room for practice.  Your routine will change many times before you find what is right for you.
  2. Prepare by going to bed earlier than usual for about a week.  Eating cleaner and having a good vitamin regimen will help and this is a good time to start putting that into practice.
  3. Have somewhere to be that early.  A park, or even a coffee shop where you can have a cup of tea and a bagel, and your little one can have some juice and a pancake. The point is to spend time together so plan out the night before where you would like to go and what you would like to do with this time.
  4. Start getting your child up at this time slowly, but make sure that they have the ability to take a nap later if their body wants them to. In our house it’s whispers, kisses and gentle waking.  NEVER shouting, threatening, etc.  If they absolutely cannot get up, then try again another day.
  5. Consistency is key to life.  Humans are creatures of habit, and we have the intelligence to form our own habits…so make them good ones!
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