How to Start the Day Without Screaming at Everyone: Our New Morning Routine
I used to be lousy at mornings. And you could tell because between one and five people between the ages of one and forty would be yelling, crying or sweating before 8am. That’s not a good sign.
Typically I’d bolt out of bed the moment I heard our toddler start yelling from her room. At around 5:30am. It’s not a pleasant wakeup call, but it’s the one I’ve heard for the last four years as our family has expanded from three people to four to a group of five. Our youngest just had his first birthday and the oldest starts preschool in two weeks. That means mornings (like dinnertime) are mayhem at my house.
You know, you have mornings.
Estelle is our two-year-old and often refuses to put on clothes altogether. To get a fresh pull-up on that little behind requires a wrestling match. Phoebe is four, wants to choose her clothes herself and has no interest in advice about weather-appropriate choices. What she does wants to know goes something like this:
P: Where’s my balloon dress?
Me: The one you wore yesterday? It’s not available because it’s in the washing machine.
P: But it’s been there for nine days! I never get to wear that dress.
Me: (Said with my eyebrows alone: Except for yesterday…)
My husband takes a shower and puts on a suit. I trade my pajamas for the pair of shorts I wore yesterday. And sometimes I do it standing in the kitchen, supervising a breakfast of mini-muffins and fruit.
Time to leave!
There are shoes to find and running feet to wrangle. Remember the water bottles for “summer camp”! Wait, no one’s hair is brushed. And did anyone brush their teeth? Back to the bathroom.
We need to leave now!
I’m stressed out because I’m scared. I won’t have enough time to do all the work I’ve agreed to do in an amount of time that’s already not quite enough.
So that’s it. When I finally put my finger on the source of my stress, I started something new. For my own sanity, and for those around me, these are the new rules:
- Everyone knows the new rules. When things start to spiral in the A.M., that means I need to give the crew a refresher on what’s expected. So I just lay it out for them (and if your group can read, you could write this down). Here is what we are doing today: Getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, eating breakfast then putting on shoes before going to the car. Ready? Let’s go!
- I take a shower the night before. It just works more smoothly for me to have both hands on deck in the morning but this way I still get to feel like a freshly washed and sorta civilized person.
- Rely heavily on pre-made breakfasts. I make more muffins than anyone I know but they make mornings run so much smoother. Pumpkin muffins, apple muffins, chocolate zucchini muffins…all of them packed with good-for-you stuff like wheat germ, honey in place of sugar, whole oats and as much fruit as I can get away with and still have them cook up. I try to have two or three batches in the freezer at all times.
- Offer only simple breakfasts: Other than muffins, I also keep a steady supply of plain yogurt that we serve drizzled with honey and sprinkled with chia seeds. Fresh (or even dried) fruit and slices of cheese can round out any breakfast that starts with toast or cereal.
- Everyone eats the same thing: The kitchen does not equal a diner.
- Keep the school bag in the same place: I load up one bag for all three kids who attend a half-day preschool program at our church. The bag lives in the kitchen and gets filled with water bottles, sheets for the baby, sun screen for whoever was sent home with a note that they needed more… I put it all in one
pileplace so I never wonder where that crazy bag went.
- Shoes go in the closet. No where else.
- Encourage cooperation and good deeds. Our four-year-old loves helping, so I let her collect the shoes for everyone. I throw in a sticker here and there just to grease the wheels.
- Everyone leaves together. This was a habit we developed back in Rome, where everyone was born and when started this routine. My husband left at 8am for work and we all made it out the door at that time too, whether it was headed for school or just out for a quick coffee before we dropped him off at the subway. The momentum gets everyone up and out. And bonus: That means and I have another adult around to help.
- Don’t freak out. When we don’t make it out the door on time, I’m trying something new these days: not losing it. Not stressing about the time I won’t have to get my assignments done that morning. The kids are very small people who need my direction, not my dissatisfaction. If it doesn’t work out today, we’ll make a note, and do something different tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe we’ll make that part of a new routine.
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