Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mornings at our house

The ever-wonderful Nicole has posted about her household's morning routine today. Our mornings look a little different, so, for the sake of variety and joining in the conversation, I thought I might post it.

The first point to note is that our "routine" is a lot less consistent, and a lot less ... ummmm ... routine-y? than Nicole's. Possibly this is a function of the fact that I'm a much less orderly thinker than Nicole is; it certainly isn't anything to do with family shape / size, as I have three kids to her five and they line up pretty much exactly with her younger three in age.

In my house I have:
- a 3 year old, C, who still likes a morning breastfeed, can wake anywhere between 6 and 7am, and doesn't like leaving the house in the morning;
- an almost 9 year old, A, who is an avid (some might say obsessive) reader, quite deadline oriented, and prone to hissy fits;
- an about-to-be-7 year old, E, who haaaaaates mornings with the fiery passion of a thousand suns;
- a husband who thinks mornings are evil and will sleep until the last possible nanosecond; and
- me - usually a morning person, but currently suffering interrupted sleep and thus often very tired and irritable in the mornings.

If you're thinking that all sounds like a powderkeg waiting to go KABLOOOEY, well, you'd be right. We've had our share and more of frantic scrabbling, everybody yelling, tears and Benny Hill-style chases through the house to catch people whose hair needs BRUSHING, WOULD YOU HOLD STILL FOR ONE FRICKIN' MINUTE, and so forth. We've had forgotten lunchboxes and overdue notices and unkempt breathless late arrivals at school. Oh yes we have.

The things that I'm finding that have a calming effect on this maelstrom are five little tricks. They don't really constitute a "routine" so much as "a set of tools to help prevent a series of unfortunate events from unfolding". On the whole, they work, and the last two weeks, mornings have been a lot pleasanter and we haven't been late once! (WIN!)

1. I do all the notices, money, extracurricular bits and pieces etc the night before now. (This includes getting E's gymnastics bag ready on a Wednesday, as we go to gym after school that day, and A's ballet bag ready on Fridays - same logic). I always *think* I'm going to have time to do this in the morning, and I never do, so I finally learned the lesson and went with advance preparation. We haven't had a crisis with notices since the very beginning of the year now I use this system.

2. Refer everybody who can read to the Morning List, which I got A and E to create, write and illustrate (and allowed C to colour with green pencil so she felt she had some buy-in too). This list is really a bit of a lifesaver. Since we've had it, I have not had any struggle getting A and E to eat their breakfast reasonably swiftly, for instance, because they can *see* what has to come next - they know because they wrote it! It's also a useful mnemonic for me - I glance at it several times as I'm doing my morning things to act as a prompt.

3. Task the older two kids with helping to get C ready. C is a mischievous monkey when it comes to getting dressed, but she is somewhat less so for her sisters, who seem to have a knack for making it a game and getting C to join in. I get out the clothes I want her in, then one of the bigs (usually E) dresses C and even sometimes combs her hair.

4. Put in restrictions around all distracting activities, including (sadly) reading. We've never had morning TV or computers on weekdays, but visual media aren't the only child-diverters around. Both A and E, but particularly A, will happily lose themselves in books, daydreaming away the time until it's suddenly CRISIS O'CLOCK and they are still in their bunny slippers and pjs. We now have a rule that you can read while you eat your breakfast, then it's books down until you are ready to walk out the door. (Naturally, if you are ready early, you can read to your heart's content!)

5. Wake husband at the latest possible moment for him to get to work on time (7:45am if he has the car - Mondays & Tuesdays - or 7:15am if he's on the bus). An extra adult isn't actually as helpful to my morning process as you might imagine; often it simply ups the ante of people getting annoyed and peeved, and makes things harder. Unless I am actually sick, it's smoother if I just make the mornings happen and let him get about his business.

So, routine-light as we are, we still manage to get to school (walking Mon & Tues, in the car the rest of the week) and C gets to creche on Thursdays. We aren't often (too) late and everyone has a healthy lunch packed and everything they need for the day with them. There is even usually some laughter and cuddling involved. Sure, I don't often squeeze in a shower - I more often wash at night - and there's usually dishes to come home to. But for a family of muddle-headed wombats, we do OK.


  1. I like point 2 getting them involved is good. If my kids were young enough I'd copy you and yes, I'd be looking at it a lot too.

  2. Love the list A and E created. I have a couple of readers who get lost in their books too. I always feel sort of bad saying stop reading, but like you, we have to have boundaries on it.

    I also am constantly asking my 13 year old to pick up books. He has them everywhere including the toilet!

    1. Oh, the toilet book reader! I have one of those too. A often disappears into the loo for lengthy periods and comes out complaining of a sore backside because she's been sitting on the seat so long "just to finish one more chapter" :-) Lucky we have two loos!

  3. Love this! The "benny hill style chases" made me laugh out loud. Our mornings can be chaotic or calm, very much delendent on the whims of my Miss A (3 1/2) and her influence on Miss C (nearly 2). I've just added a newborn to the mix which can make things very interesting!

    1. Wow yes, Lulu, the newborn adds a whole 'nuther layer to it all! When C was a newborn (A was 5 1/2, E almost 4) I just counted it a victory if we actually LEFT the house in the morning, never mind the rest :-)