So, it’s back to school time. In our house, we’re at T-minus 6 days. Praise God! I’ve enjoyed the summer with my kids- I can’t believe how quickly it’s flown by- but, seriously, I feel like building an altar to God at the bus stop, Old Testament style, and roasting up a burnt offering. I think a lot of loving moms out there can sympathize that it’s time for the kids to get off the couch and back to school.
Also, a lot of moms are dreading those early mornings. What is the deal? On Saturday mornings, my husband and I had to make a rule that absolutely no one is allowed to leave their bedroom before 7am. And less than one second after their clocks change to 7:00, three children come bursting forth from their bedrooms as if they’re storming the gates of Disney World. But on school days, I’m dragging my kids out of bed at 6:45, spritzing their faces with water, blaring loud music from my iPhone just to get them moving and ready to leave on time. And, these children are still in elementary school. I thought kids that age were supposed to be excited to go to school. Evidently, their excitement for school does not translate into early morning mobility or compliance.
So, to make things easier, I’ve implemented a few strategies.
1) Skip the jammies.
All my children can be slow-moving at times, but I’ve got one child in particular (who shall remain nameless) whose constant speed is called “killllllllllllllllllllling-mommmmmmmmmm-sloooooooooowly”. The only time this child changes his pace is when someone puts down a toy that he’s been wanting. Then, he moves like The Flash. It used to take this child at least thirty minutes to change out of his jammies and into his school clothes- and it was not for lack of ability. Something had to be done or I was going to lose my mind. Therefore, I decided to skip jammies altogether and go straight from wearing one day’s clothes to the next (with, of course, a shower in between). Any children who do not require a diaper or pull-up while sleeping sleeps in the clothes they will wear to school the next day. This has been, by far, the biggest time saver for our school mornings.
2) Pre-plan the night before.
Sometimes, Nighttime Me says stupid things like, “I can just make those lunches in the morning,” or, “He can finish his homework on the way to school.” But when that happens, Morning Me is frustrated and moody. So, the best solution for getting things done that can be done ahead of time is to do them ahead of time. Duh. Nighttime Me needs to stay up a few minutes later- while all the children and maybe even the husband are tucked in their beds- and slather mayo on whole wheat bread in peace instead of waiting until the children are awake (yet not fully awake) and crying because it’s too early to get out of bed or because they suddenly forgot how to tie their shoes. Morning Me will thank Nighttime Me every time for her thoughtfulness and foresight. It’ll be a win-win because our mornings will go smoother and I’ll win brownie points with myself.
3) Cut unnecessary morning chores.
Chores- or as we call them in our house, responsibilities- are a necessary part of being in a family. But, it can also cause some serious stress for both the chore-doer and their parents. Consider which chores are necessary to do before school, and leave the other chores for after school. Or, just don’t do them at all. (Seriously, why make your bed? You’re just going to mess it up again that night.)
Also, evaluate which child does which morning chores quicker. We’ve got 3 animals and our 2 big kids take turns in the morning and evening feeding them. During a lapse in judgment, I assigned my slower son the responsibility of feeding the animals in the morning. I kid you not- my faster son was ready a full 30 minutes before my other one. Finally, my husband pointed out the error of my ways, and we switched the animal feeding schedule- now my faster son feeds the animals in the morning (and still gets ready before the other, but, hey, we’ve made progress).
4) Set the routine.
Mid-way through last school year, I got up with a rare spring in my step and took pictures of my sons doing each individual thing necessary to be ready to leave the house. Then, while they were at school, I used the pictures to make them each a morning routine chart by putting the pictures in order and numbering and labeling them with a description of each- 1)Get out of bed, 2)Go Potty, 3)Brush teeth, 4)Feed animals, 5)Put lunch in backpack, etc. I made one morning routine chart for each son and printed 2 copies- one I posted on their closet door and the other I slid under the glass on our dining room table where they each sit. That way, they had a visual reminder of each thing they were supposed to do in the morning and the order in which they were to do them. One of my sons follows the chart like it’s law, while the other skips around out of order, but they both usually get everything done before time to leave.
5) Evaluate transportation options.
We began at a new school last year and I was so excited that my boys would finally be able to ride the bus to school. And, it was going to be super awesome that I could still pick them up after school and have lovely conversations with them all the way home. Except, this plan totally backfired and, regrettably, I did nothing about it until three-quarters of the way into the school year. You see, the bus came so stinking early that there was no way anyone in our house could function at the time required. Therefore, our mornings became me yelling threats at the kids while they walked around like mindless zombies. And then, when it came time to pick them up from school, I was hitting that afternoon wall-in-the-face-drowsiness. Our lovely conversations became gripe sessions- from both sides.
At last, I made the decision to drive them to school (of course, in my jammies- another time saver!) and let them ride the bus home in the afternoons. You would not believe what an impact this small change did for our quality of life. I was no longer super sleepy in the afternoons. And, even if I was, at least I wasn’t nodding off in the pick-up line. My little one could sleep all the way through her afternoon nap without being disturbed by having to leave home to go get her brothers. And, believe it or not, I had much lovelier conversations with my kids on the way to school each morning than I ever had on the way home. It was an all-around win.
6) Eat breakfast in the car.
I know this is how a lot of moms handle breakfast on school mornings anyway. And why? Because we’re multi-taskers by nature and because driving down winding roads- or in heavy traffic- while opening pop-tarts for children who are strapped into their car seats and can go virtually nowhere is easier than trying to keep the children focused on their breakfast and seated in a chair at the dining room table. There’s no guilt or shame in saving your family frustration be eating prepackaged breakfast foods or cereal from zipper baggies.
Now’s the part where I make you a little jealous. My sons’ school does this amazing thing where every single child gets a free breakfast delivered to their classroom every single morning so we don’t do breakfast at all before school. Yay! But I am a serious stickler for my kids drinking a glassful of water every morning, so we do that in the car on the way to school.
7) Pray together.
I’m not kidding. We pray every morning in the car on the way to school and, no matter how crazy or stressful our morning up to that point has been, it brings us all back down to a calm, comforted level. Especially for myself, it helps me focus on being the mom I want to be and not let my frustrations run away with my emotions. Plus, it’s very interesting to hear the things my kids pray for each morning- it’s a true insight into how they’re feeling and what their fears and hopes for the future are. I really missed having that prayer time each morning with them while they were riding the morning bus- now that we have it back, I cherish it even more.