What's it like getting your kids ready in the morning?
When the first kid wakes up, I quickly activate the ‘cartoon sequence’. If a sleepy child walks past a blank TV, they will find you in the kitchen and ask to help with breakfast. That’s a weekend activity; I have no time for an assistant during the school week. If the cartoon sequence isn’t activated, you’ve lost 20-30 minutes which could require aspirin or an escape ticket to Panama. I might have to run away and start again with a vasectomy! No, I could never do that to my little buddies … but it has crossed my mind. Also, to be clear, I would get the vasectomy done before going to Panama … highly questionable healthcare.
Sometimes I activate the cartoon sequence before they are awake. I mute the sound but have something on Netflix ready to go. Then, when the first one makes their presence known, I turn up the volume and it acts as a tractor beam to place them in front of the TV while I’m engaged in kitchen warfare. If we had a difficult time getting them to sleep the night before, and they were up later than usual, I might have to blast the volume to wake them up. I have multiple options all locked and loaded depending on the circumstances.
The goal is to have a peaceful morning with compliant children who are willing to eat their breakfasts, get dressed, and brush their teeth without making any sort of a fuss. Yes; I want a miracle. Needless to say, things don’t always go according to plan, hence the alternative options which are designed to get us back on track after a derailment. The endgame is a timely drop-off sequence, so I can make the most of my time alone. More on that later.
My kitchen is my workspace, the office, if you will. While Beth is glued to her laptop watching some teen show, and Emily and Zoe are in Netflix Kids land, I’m working on finishing up with breakfast and lunches. While the oats are bubbling, I’m putting sandwiches together and keeping an ear out for flare-ups over whose turn it is to pick the next cartoon. I also transfer the day’s miniature clothing (selected the night before) from the laundry room to the coffee table near the TV. We have an entire room dedicated to the mountains of clean clothes needed to keep these little dribblers and spillers in business.
Putting their clothes in front of them before breakfast plants the seed that the next step after eating is dressing. I try to do everything in sequence so as to condition them on a subconscious level. Every little bit of an edge will help me avoid pandemonium. There will be days of chaos that can’t be avoided because after all, we’re dealing with children. Nonetheless, everything I do has a purpose. I know myself. I know that when things get crazy, I lose focus and the kids smell it like blood in the water.
The period after breakfast is what I call tantrum reef … the danger zone for resistance over completing some part of the morning routine. If the tantrum shark bites, I’m going to be mentally limping for the rest of the day. For me, kid meltdowns are the biggest energy drain because I also have one. Sometimes it’s an internal (repressed) adult meltdown, and other times it’s an externalized tantrum like the kids have. Either way, the result is that I’ve got a stress hangover that might not go away until bedtime. At all costs, do what you can to minimize the potential for these stress bombs.
For example; Zoe recently spilled her oatmeal all over the rug, which was brutal to clean up. I lost it and shouted, then she lost it and cried. This was a physically and emotionally challenging start to the day. In those situations, you can just let go and decide to take your time and be late for school or you can freak out and try to make it before the bell. I’ve gone both ways. It’s never easy; we can only do our best. I’m sure most of you have been there too.
While they finish eating, I’m putting school bags in the trunk and then setting up toothbrushes, floss, and cups for swishing and spitting. Some of you may disagree, but...