Remember the days when your alarm clock woke you at 7 a.m.? When you rolled out of bed, took a hot shower, and read the newspaper while savoring that first cup of coffee? When you arrived at work on time, your hair brushed, leaving only a few dirty dishes behind in your otherwise spotless kitchen?
I remember those days. Then I remember this morning. If, like me, you’re blessed with school-age children, your morning was probably a lot like mine, if not in the details, at least in the general feel.
Here’s a typical work/school morning at my house. Boy wakes me up at 5:30 a.m. because he got up to pee and can’t go back to sleep. He crawls into my bed, into my warm spot, and I move to his bed, desperate for one more hour of sleep before the alarm goes off. As I start to doze off, I hear the girl stomping her way down the stairs. It’s 6 o’clock. I give in and get up. I hear the dog whine and run downstairs to let him out before he uses the sofa leg as a fire hydrant. I run back upstairs to brush my teeth. I may or may not have a chance to brush my hair.
So the morning rush begins. By the time everyone’s fed and dressed, lunches and backpacks packed, shoes and jackets located, and both kidlings bundled out the door at 7:15, I’m exhausted. And that’s when there’s been no drama, fighting, or lengthy debates about clothing choices, or whether a coat is necessary when it’s 40 degrees outside, or why there are no clean socks in the sock drawer.
I’m usually not even involved in the last leg of the morning. Enviro-spouse walks the kids to the bus stop, which presents its own challenges, particularly when one or both kids have forgotten to use the bathroom before leaving home. I apologize, now—publicly—to our forgiving neighbors who’ve been woken by one of my kids peeing on their rhododendrons at 7:20 a.m.
We never truly appreciate what we have until we lose it. Did you even know what treasure you had in those leisurely mornings before kids? I sure as hell had no clue. No clue that I would need to check items off a 50-point flow chart to get four small feet out the door in the mornings. No clue that, if I oversleep, the repercussions affect others and can be much more serious than showing up for work wearing two different-colored shoes. (Yes, I’ve done that. I had two of the same pair of work shoes—one navy and one black).
If you read a serious article in a parenting magazine about preparing for morning madness, it’ll tell you to get organized the night before—pack the kids’ lunches and put them in the fridge, organize backpacks, lay out outfits.
Well, screw getting organized the night before. I’m tired at night. I just want to have a beer and go to bed. I do not want to think about peanut-butter sandwiches, or whether the boy’s pants have too many holes in them for one more wearing.
The parenting experts will also tell you to stick to a schedule. This works to a point. In my experience, whenever we get on a schedule and mornings start flowing smoothly, something or someone messes it up. One of the challenges of dealing with kids is how much they change as they grow and develop. Adults don’t change much. Shoot, we don’t even change our minds very often. Kids, however, are constantly changing. As soon as you get them trained to pack their lunchboxes themselves, they’ll decide they want to eat in the cafeteria and demand money when you haven’t been to the bank in a week. As soon as you figure out how to get them to walk to the bus stop without whining, they’ll decide they need to walk a different route, necessitating leaving the house three minutes earlier. It’s the Catch-22 of childhood. Kids need schedules, and they’re wired to wreak havoc with schedules.
I say screw morning schedules, too. All I can do is try to remain calm and remember that it’s OK if the kids’ outfits don’t match or they turn up their fickle noses at the breakfast they’ve eaten every morning for two straight months. The goal is making it to the bus stop on time. While we typically do what we need to do in a certain order, I know the moment I impose a rigid morning schedule, someone will throw a tantrum. And it might be me.
As I wave at my kids trotting down the street to school, I hope I have a bit of time to dress myself. I realize the kitchen’s a wreck, though I have yet to eat myself, and there are forlorn homework papers floating around the dining room. But I can deal with all that tomorrow. As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.” And tomorrow is another 45 minutes of morning madness to survive.