Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Morning Grind

It is hard to get my kids out of the house for school each morning. It's even harder to do it without yelling. And the morning yelling is probably one of the things I hate myself most for. The last thing I want to do before I send my children out into the world for the day is yell at them. Who wants to start their day by getting torn a new one by their mother who (supposedly) loves them the most?

I like to tell myself that my mornings are particularly hard since 
a) I have three young children, all 5 and under 
b) my husband is already gone for the day so I'm solo and 
c) we have to leave the house by 7:30am most days which feels early.

Now, I'm sure many of you have it harder than me. This is not a contest. I'm not looking for your sympathy about my situation or the sob story about yours. We all have our challenges trying to get out the door in a timely manner and if you are anything like me your biggest obstacle is the same: children.

My three year old is quick and efficient at getting ready for school, but is easily derailed by his brother. The baby is beautiful and virtually helpless at 11 months old so the burden of getting her ready falls squarely on me. My five year old is both easily distracted and slow as molasses. He is particularly frustrating because he is fully capable of dressing himself but he won't, at least not in in a reasonable amount of time. My mother says the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and I think she's probably laughing maniacally in secret at my unfortunate karma. She also says she was guilty of yelling at me while trying to get me out the door and I turned out to be a relatively punctual and decent human being, so I think there's hope for all of us. But for my own sanity and the sake of my children I have spent the better part of this year trying to find a better way to motivate, to be on time, and to stop yelling. Here's what I've learned:

Set a timer. For Mr. Molasses I've started setting a timer, especially for breakfast. If he's not finished when the timer is up (and believe me he gets plenty of time) he leaves the table and continues with his routine. When he's finished washing up/brushing teeth and getting dressed he can go back to finish his breakfast, if there's time. Often the threat of a timer is enough, but it gets sticky when he runs out of time. Our usual punishment would be a timeout, but that use up more of our precious time! 

Let them sleep in their school clothes. The (power) struggle is real with my five year old. This was my mother's ingenious suggestion to eliminate the power struggle around getting dressed. It's a win win. Either he hates sleeping in his clothes and it motivates him to get dressed without losing focus or he loves it and it's one less thing to do in the morning. So far, I haven't had to make good on this threat, but I imagine I will before school is out. I'll keep you posted on how that works out.

Get up earlier. What I really mean by that is get up before the kids. I know you don't want to hear that. Believe me. I know. My kids get up at 6:37am every morning. My alarm goes off around 5:30am and lately I desperately ignore it until 6:00am. But an uninterrupted shower and coffee alone with my thoughts is worth it. Plus, if I am dressed and fed I can help them get ready if needed or at least monitor their progress.

Get the kids up early. Letting the kids sleep in until the last possible minute is not doing anyone any favors. They are even slower when they are groggy and more inclined to throw a fit if they are rushed. Until recently, my kids were pretty early risers so I had more of a problem getting them to stay in bed until a reasonable hour. They have a light on a timer that turns on when they are allowed to get up and now it acts as an alarm clock on school days. It's actually pretty nice that they get up on time, on their own. It's one less thing I have to worry about.

Do it the night before. Prep the coffee. Turn on the timer if it motivates you to roll out of bed before 6am. Pack lunches. Check backpacks. Pick out clothes. Find jackets. If it can be done the night before, do it. The less you have to manage during the morning rush, the less you have to yell about.

Threaten to unleash mean mommy. Sometimes threatening to yell is more effective than actually yelling. It's bizarre. It sounds like this, "If I have to ask you to get dressed again, I'm going to use my mean mommy voice. Do you want to hear my mean mommy voice?" I know. I sound like a crazy person. But I'm a pretty successful crazy person.

You'll win some, you'll lose some. Occasionally, I put my best foot forward all morning long and then as we are about to walk out the door, triumphantly on time, someone informs me that they have to poop. It happens. Pour yourself a to go cup of coffee while you wait. You will need it.

Do you have any secrets to surviving the morning grind? I'd love to hear about them!

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