No-Sweat School Mornings

I do mornings.

For years until I was 42, I used to say that I was not a morning person.  I didn’t like getting up early, and I detested having to be coherent for any reason before 9:00.  I liked getting out of bed and just making it to work when required, and waking myself up gradually… say, by 11:00.

All of that changed when children entered the picture.  Two out of the three of them are morning people.  The youngest, in particular, is a lively hop-out-of-bed type of person who cannot understand why everyone else does not share his zest for all things morning.  Immediately upon his arrival in our home, he began to wake us no later than 6:00 a.m., bright eyed and bushy-tailed, banging loudly on our bedroom door.

So now I do mornings.

School mornings were a particular issue for me.  Being “The Insta-Mom”, I was thrown into the craziness of school mornings like a piece of meat to a pack of wild dogs.  It nearly ate me up.  I couldn’t seem to figure out which days I needed to pack what, how much lunch to give them, and what “currency” I need to use to coax each one to do what is needed.

So I now think I may have it figured out.

I’ve realized that the key to a good school morning is being ready the night before.  So, with the help of “The Get Yourself Organized Project” by Kathi Lipp,  I’ve come up with a list of things that I do on school nights to be ready for the morning. Perhaps it might be of help to you as you look forward to the back to school season:

1.  Set your alarm early so that you can beat the early kid to the punch.  It makes me feel immediately in control when I’m the one doing the waking.

2. Dump the nastiness out of the backpacks.  Do this either outside or over a garbage can.   Heaven only knows what might slither or ooze out.

3. Go through the kids’ agendas or homework to see what is to be done for the next day.  Then you have grounds to say, “AHA! Yes you DO have homework, you little stinker!” when they claim that the teacher never mentions homework.

4. Pack lunches (if the kid is older, make them do this). If it is something that just can’t be made the night before, do as much of the prep as possible.  It’s much better for the child’s nutrition if the lunch is not completely packed by a zombie mother.

5. Make the kids pick out their clothes.  It will avoid the bedroom looking like the back room of a fashion show the next morning.

6. Charge your cell phones and other electronic devices.  Put them where you can find them without having to use a “find-my-iPhone-because-I’m-braindead” app.

7. Defrost or at least plan out tomorrow night’s supper.  Kids can’t live on chicken fingers, even though they are quite happy to do so.

8. Put breakfast bowls and cereal or whatever on the table.  If a kid is big enough, you may be able to hang on to a few more minutes of zombie state while they fix their own breakfast.

9. Fill up water bottles.  Make sure that they are tucked in something outside the bag.  We have ruined many agendas and permission slips by putting them inside.  None of them are leakproof and they all end up upside-down in the backpack.

10. Set reminders.  I set reminders on my iPhone of anything that is needed for the morning that I might possibly forget.  I also tie random things to doorknobs in case I forgot step 6.

11. Find your keys.  Preferably get into the habit of hanging them or placing them in the same place every day.  Nothing worse than being totally ready and then spending 20 minutes looking for keys.

12. Empty the dishwasher.  I know it sounds out of place on this list, but it will make you feel so much better if you can throw breakfast dishes quickly into the dishwasher to get them out of the way so that you don’t feel like crying when you get home later.

13. Fill up your gas tank.  All of your saved time goes out the window if you have to stop and get gas on the way to work.

14. Shut off the computer about an hour before bedtime. (I still haven’t mastered this.  I’m typing this at 12:14 a.m.)  Apparently the light from your computer will trigger stuff in your brain that will do something or other to keep you awake.  (I really absorb scientific information like a sponge.)

15.  Go to bed at a sensible time.  I have a good friend who used to say to her sons, “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”  I would say for a mother of three, nothing good happens after 10.  After that, you should be ten-toes-up in bed, halfway to La-La-Land.  Don’t lie there and watch the news either.  Nobody wants to go to bed dreaming they being attacked by angry demonstrators or in the middle of a drug bust.

16.  Match up mittens.  We have a bin in our front entrance that is like a singles bar for mittens… each mitten is in there trying to find its mate.  To alleviate this problem, just buy many of the same mittens so that there’s always a matching pair.  (Also check up the sleeves of the jacket they wore the day before.  You might find the rogue mitten there. )  There have been many mornings when I have dragged myself back into the house after putting the kids on the bus, only to have to gather up the contents of the mitten bin, which has been dumped out onto the floor in desperation.

17. Make sure boots and other winter stuff are dry and have not been used to add detail to a snowman in the front yard.

18. Remind your kids about how smart they are.  Hopefully they will fall back on that when they have an opportunity to make a dumb choice the next day.

19. Read the Bible to the kids. Make sure that the last thing they hear about is how much God loves them.

20. Finally, pray with them. Let them finish the day talking to the One who made the day happen in the first place. It puts everything else in perspective.

After you have checked all of these off your list, my best advice is to expect the wildcards.  Children like to throw wrenches into your perfectly-planned mornings.  They like to tell you as you are running to catch the bus that they have a major project due, or they need to bring gym clothes for a sports day.  You must take those things in stride and expect the unexpected.

If the children make it to school with their lunch and fully clothed, then the rest is gravy.  Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your day.

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