I was reading an article on revision advice from an experienced editor. One piece of advice was to make the first time the reader meets the character extra impactful. First impressions matter, and that goes double for character-building.
Then, my alarm went off, signaling that I needed to wake my son up to get ready for school.
First impressions are important- and we get a chance for them every day, if we count mornings.
And I do.
The morning impression of my family is so telling. You can gather a lot about who they are from just the first hour.
Noah wakes up with a few cozy yawns and stretches. In a few minutes he willingly springs out of bed. In no time, he’s fighting imaginary enemies and explaining he’s actually someone’s lost son from some ninja planet.
He usually gets so wrapped up in his fantasies that I have to remind him of the breakfast that’s in front of him. Even though I get him up early, so he can play before school, he’s ready to go only two minutes before our school bus alarm goes off.
He’s bright, distracted, sunshine every morning.
My daughter is another story.
I don’t have to wake her up. Even though she is not a morning kid, she’d rather crawl out of her room before daylight than be left out of all the activity going on in the kitchen.
About five minutes after I get Noah up, I hear a bang! That’s Josie swinging her door open.
Then, stomp, stomp, stomp.
I catch a glimpse of a little body wrapped head to toe in a blanket, face covered, navigating the way purely by memory, as she clomps to the couch. Still covered completely, she lays there in silence for several minutes. We’ve learned the hard way that if her father or I approach too soon, or too cheerfully, we’ll be met with scowls or fussing. We leave her alone for a good five minutes.
She thaws out on the couch, slowly letting the blanket fall off her face, as she blinks, bleary-eyed in the morning light. Once her eyes adjust, I offer her cereal and chocolate milk. She always says yes, leaving the blanket behind.
After this warm-up period, she’s pure sweet sunshine. She can’t give her brother enough hugs and kisses on his way out the door. The transformation is remarkable.
Husband is usually the last one up. He is even less of a morning person than his daughter, and he has a habit of going to bed well after midnight, making getting up harder.
Sometimes, I just open the bedroom door early. That way, he will at least hear the informal alarm clock of his daughter bursting through her door.
Other times, I let him sleep until there’s just enough time for him to get up and drink something before taking Noah to the bus stop. I wake him up sweetly- with a reminder that I’m not his mom, and that he should really set his own alarm.
Other times, if I’m feeling it, I’ll turn the kids loose on him.
“Hmmm. Is daddy still being a sleepy head? Who wants to go wake him up for me?”
Husband needs approximately 3 cups of coffee to activate his personality in the morning. After stumbling out of bed, it’s silence and slow moving until he gets those 3 cups.
That’s all three of my loves, between the hours of 6 and 7 a.m.
That first hour tells you a lot.