My friend who has two young children was groaning about how hectic her morning had been and was upset that she’d arrived after the tardy bell had already rung. She was nearly in tears as she shared with me how their morning had gone (not great, by her measure). Then she said it. The thing that nearly all of my friends have said at some point: But how can I complain? You have FOUR children! That must be so much harder!
Having four children ages 5-8 is a fun challenge in many ways but I’d be lying if I said that our MOST fun is the time between waking up and arriving at school. And we don’t always get it right. There are weeks when we are late two days in a row, seasons that feel like a depressing Groundhog Day (remember that movie?), and days there are tears (sometimes mine, sometimes the kids).
You’re not failing, it’s just hard
I told my friend the same thing I tell everyone: “It doesn’t matter if you have one or five kids, it’s not easy!” And leaving for school is the perfect storm for frustration to grow: It’s early in the morning, it involves food, there are papers that need signed and last-minute themes like “80’s Day” to remember… And then there’s the small task of making sure their emotional cups are full so they’re ready to take on their day. We’re not even talking about how many times you re-heat your coffee!
What’s the goal?
When I arrive late to school I’m not pulling my hair out in frustration. I’ve prioritized a pleasant morning over being on time. Not that I don’t care about being on time. I do!
When things go off the rails it’s for one of two reasons: either I’ve failed to properly plan/prepare (in which case it’s my fault and I should accept the consequences gracefully) or because something out of my control went wrong (constipated child decided to “try one more time” right before we walk out the door… someone spilled their cereal and milk all over the last clean uniform… a tooth decided it needed to be pulled… shoes were left outside and the dog ate them… the list is endless).
I’ve been THAT MOM who went berserk in these moments and let me assure you that it’s not worth it. You’re better off taking a deep breath, smiling, and giving hugs. Just trust me on this one. There will be times when arriving on schedule is of great importance but most days, the big picture goal of staying connected will matter more. Full disclosure: I don’t always get this right and neither will you.
In my experience, it can be ONE little tweak that makes a huge difference in our routine for school mornings! Here are some things that have helped us over the years.
- It all starts the night before. This is a non-negotiable! Backpacks packed, papers signed, lunches/snacks packed, water bottles filled BEFORE BED! I don’t understand the math but it takes 3x longer to do it in the morning than the night before. It’s science, don’t try to fight it.
- Keep it real. If you made it to school in 12 minutes that one day because the stars aligned, there was no traffic and you hit all the green lights… don’t plan for that every day! If you know that it truly takes closer to 20 minutes to make it to school then plan for it to take 25.
- Get your minds right! We do a non-negotiable devotional which I read to them from Jesus Calling for Kids and we say a little prayer together. We do this even if we woke up late because I want to teach them the importance of intentionally setting the tone for our day. And it helps me too because who wants to scream like a crazy person about lost shoes after just doing a devotional? Check out these resources to grow your child’s faith.
- Dress my kids while they are sleeping. Some kids are just SLOW (or grumpy) when they first wake up and you’re faced with either waking them up 10 precious minutes earlier or putting their clothes on them before they’re fully conscious. I’ve never needed to do this past kindergarten. I turn on the lights, take off their pajamas, and put on their clothes starting with socks and working up to the shirt. I even put on their shoes!
- “Make your flat-man”! My kids lay out their clothes the night before like a little flat person, including shoes and hairbows. When they’re little (or being lazy), I help them.
- Caddy in the kitchen for hair. I realized a few years ago that it’s much easier and more efficient to do my children’s hair while they’re eating breakfast. But it was a search for the traveling hairbrush, gel, hair ties, etc. Then I got smart and put all the hair supplies (including a spray water bottle) in a caddy which is kept tucked away in a kitchen cabinet.
- Breakfast in the car? I’ve done this a few times… Made little plates of food first then woke them up/dressed/teeth and out the door. On these days I even bring the hair caddy and do their hair in the parking lot of the school.
- Toothbrush timing. I’ve always been someone who brushes teeth AFTER food. But if you have a super-slow eater maybe it’s a better idea to take them straight to brush teeth after getting dressed and then head to the kitchen for breakfast? This way if they aren’t finished eating when it’s time to go they can finish in the car.
- No new food. This isn’t the time to try a new breakfast casserole if you have picky eaters. Go with what works and you know they’ll eat with the least amount of complaining. If you have kids who don’t love to eat breakfast period then perhaps make a protein and vitamin-rich smoothie they can sip from spill-proof cups in the car.
- Turn off my phone. Or at least social media/email. I’ll freely admit that my adult ADHD can kick in when I see the little red notifications and before I know it I’m scrolling and casually texting with my mom, completely forgetting that I have a little herd of people to get out the door!
- SMILE! No matter if you’re on time or if you’ve braved a few tantrums from your little ones, these really are the days that we’ll want back. We may not want these exact moments back (let’s be honest) but the moments are what make up the days that create the fleeting years.
These may not be ground-breaking ideas for school mornings, but they are what help us keep our family of 6 on track. I’d love to hear if there’s a trick that works for you. Drop it in a comment below!