Articles abound on how to order your mornings for a less hectic, more controlled pace while getting everyone out the door on time, but I’ve found they’re mostly targeted at ONE age group and rarely address a family with kids in almost every developmental bracket. Our kids are now 11.5, 9, 7, 6, and 20 months, so the only thing we’re missing at this point is a high schooler. I’ve been a mom for over a decade (and prior to that, was the eldest of six that spanned an age range of 18 years!), so I have begun to get a sense of what works well for us at this stage of familyhood. For what seemed like forever, I was convinced that my Tiny People woke up every morning with a determination to fulfill their daily mission of making me late for work, and totally stressing me out in the process. By the time I actually plopped down at my desk, I felt like a glass of wine. Not cool at 8am. So I got to thinking…how can I trick these little ones into cooperating? After all, I am a bit older and wiser. Without further babbling, I’d like to offer a few quick tips that have worked well for our family’s morning routine. Take what works, leave what doesn’t, and don’t sweat the rest.
· Prep the night before. Not a novel idea, I know, but it bears repeating. Getting everything together the night before is a lifesaver the next morning if you oversleep or need Mommy time with your Bible or Rosary and a
second third cup of coffee. Pick all of the clothing out and have it ready – including socks, hair accessories, belt, etc. Most importantly, keep it out of your Tiny People’s reach once it’s ready to go. The last thing you need is your toddler running off with one of her sandals and tossing it behind the toilet. Trust me on this one. I speak from painful experience.
· Enlist a helper. Superman and I work together to make our mornings run as smoothly as possible now, but when we had four kids under 5, he worked nights. That meant getting everyone ready to go was exclusively Mommy’s job. (Sidenote: Somehow I’m still completely responsible for myself and all the kids when Sunday morning rolls around and I can get everyone ready to go in the time it takes Superman to shower & dress. Hmmmmm…) Since our older kids are now more independent, it’s been such a relief for them to dress themselves. When my eldest was around 4 years old, I noticed her showing her baby sister (almost two at the time) how to put on shoes, and I was inspired. She then became responsible – with supervision – for helping her sister put on her sandals and sweater. Sure, it’s not a LOT of help, but it probably buys me 2-4 minutes that I can spend on donning my own sandals and sweater!
· Foster the spirit of competition. My kids can be competitive, but I don’t like them to necessarily compete with each other when their motor skills aren’t all on the same level. Or like, under any circumstances. Because OH THE FIGHTS. So, I improvise and turn the competition idea on its head, making the “competitor” an inanimate, unable-to-argue object. Using a bluetooth speaker and my phone, I select one of their favorite songs (“You Are Holy (Prince of Peace)” by Michael W. Smith and “As It Is In Heaven” by Matt Maher are jivey, upbeat faves), and they have to try and race the music. The goal is to be fully dressed and ready to go by the time the song is over. Sometimes, I “race” to get ready, too. It’s a wonderful bonding moment to hear them giggle with each other as Mommy feigns a frantic race against the song, but they also love the challenge of just moving quickly. I love that it keeps them focused – but the kids don’t need to know that!
· Make the best of commute times. You know what they say about the best laid plans… Sometimes you just run late. Or are having a bad hair day. Or there’s an accident on somewhere along the way. Regardless of what happens en route to work and the school or the sitter’s, use the opportunity in the car to turn off the radio or the DVD player, and just bond with your kiddos before you begin your day. In our car, the tradition is praying morning prayers (Morning Offering, Guardian Angel prayer, and St. Michael prayer) and singing songs. We have a healthy mix of silly, serious and educational tunes that we randomly belt out with the windows rolled up so as not to subject our fellow Houstonians to our off-key renditions. The kids love it and music soothes a hassled Mommy’s soul, too. Other fun games include looking for cars of a certain color; spotting our favorite places to eat; the alphabet game; and deciding on a bedtime story for when we get home that evening.
My babies and I wish you the best in your quest to enjoy a less stressful morning. And now, if you will excuse me, I am about to head to work. I’ve been told our first song of the day will be “The Ants Go Marching.”
Do you know any great suggestions our readers can try to ease the hassle of early morning routines? We welcome your comments and suggestions!