Tuesday morning, 6:37 am

I wake up at 6:37 am, three minutes before the alarm on my iPhone will make it's tinny call. My dreams, of zombies and running and dark, slick streets, startle me, soften and mercifully disappear. I reach over to the bedside table, turn off my alarm and get out of bed, all in one slow roll.

Tiptoeing over cold wood floors, I open Z's door. She is lying under her many blankets, the ones that have to be arranged just so every night. The bright orange one that seemed huge when she was given it as a baby, goes on the bottom, barely big enough now to stretch the length of her body. Next comes the fleece blanket her aunt made her, then the new one, with her school's logo. On top of these goes her duvet, with a cover we bought when she was a toddler, hoping it's multi-color design would suit whoever she would become. On the very top lies the orange and white weighted blanket I made for her birthday last year, heavy and noisy and comforting.

She stirs slightly and squeaks her morning greeting as I peel back the layers and climb in beside her. I cannot remember how long it's been since she was the one waking me up, appearing at my bedside at 6:30 with requests for cereal or toast or milk, right now please. This morning cuddle is how we start each school morning these days, a ritual I began when it hit me that barking an increasingly insistent series of "get up!"s from the doorway was not working. 

She snuggles into me and I sniff her hair, no longer the sweet baby scalp smell I remember, oilier now with traces of the tea tree shampoo we use to ward off lice. She tells me my breath stinks and I remind her that hers does too but from then on I make an extra effort not to breathe directly into her face.

I let myself drop into her bed, into her embrace. She is as quiet and still as she ever gets, meaning she's still squirmy and elbows me without meaning to and talks too loudly in my ear. We whisper I love yous and plans for the day and I try to divine the numbers on her clock without actually lifting my head to look at them.  As I lazily rub her scalp, she closes her eyes and leans into me like a dog with an itch.

At some point I have to rise. I know this. She knows this. We try to pretend otherwise until the numbers on the clock must certainly be close to 7. It's time, I say and rise out of the bed.

I pull her pants on first as she squirms and squeaks despair about the cold air hitting her skin. I tug on her shirt and socks and kiss the top of her head as I prepare to leave the room. It's time to separate. It's time for her to move.

I'm coddling her, I sometimes fear. At 8, she is fully capable of getting herself up, dressing herself, and coming downstairs. I desperately want her to be independent and capable. Anything I do that undermines that goal feels like a mistake.

Except for this. For right now, this way of waking up, the connection and embrace, is what she needs. What we need. And so tomorrow I will wake up at 6:37 and do it again.

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