Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Operation: Out the Door!

With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright;
Children clean and nicely dressed, and breakfasted every bite;
And at the school door stand, eager for the day ahead;
But there is no joy in my house - the kids are still in bed.

Yes, ours is one of those households that can't seem to get its act together on school days. We have plenty of prep time, but most of it is spent doing everything but prepping. If dawdling is an art, my two are practically Michelangelos. They lie in bed, play with toys, argue with each other - or me. One picks at her breakfast; the other buries his nose in the Wimpy Kid books. Today, I came out of the bedroom to find them hitting each other with balloons. Tooth- and hair-brushing is a hit-or-miss effort at best. We end up dashing to the car in a stressed-out flurry, arriving at school with minutes to spare - hardly the most conducive atmosphere for family harmony, much less good student performance.

I confess that I'm not the best time manager, either. I'm sure the kids are affected by genetics and/or observed bad habits, but that doesn't mean they need to use that as an excuse for the rest of their lives. There's always room for improvement - for all of us. (In my defense, I'm not the one still in Disney jammies 20 minutes before the first bell.)

So for the first Momsperiment of this blog, I'll be trying new strategies for our morning routine in hopes of making it both more streamlined and more pleasant.

Here's what I've tried thus far:

Nagging. The tried-and-true Mom Standby. Gets the job done eventually, but not in a timely fashion, and not without souring the mood of kids and parent alike.

Time reminders ("It's's after 8...we have to be out the door in 15 minutes..."). Doesn't always produce the desired sense of urgency. Both children still learning time concepts. Note to self: Perhaps time how long it takes to accomplish tasks?

Helping things along. As in: dressing them, brushing their teeth, feeding spoonfuls of cereal to the slow eater. Cuts a few minutes off the schedule, but relieves the kids of any sense of independence and responsibility.

Setting an earlier bedtime. Lack of sleep is linked to behavior problems and poor school performance. But in my kids' case, getting more than their usual 10 hours of z-time doesn't appear to be linked to greater morning efficiency.

Letting the children set the pace. A couple of times, I've chosen to sit back and let the dawdling proceed without comment or correction. We got out the door even later than usual, arriving just in time for them to join the line for the walk to their homerooms. Not enough of a consequence to get the lesson across. "Well, at least we got here," was my son's comment.

Now, before I launch the trial, I'd like to hear your thoughts. What are school mornings like for you? Are your children the kind who dress and pack for school without prompting, or do you have to drag them out of bed by their big toes? What works for you -  reward charts, timers, let's-see-who-can-get-ready-first races? I'd prefer to err on the side of positive reinforcement than privilege-withholding; what's more effective in your case?  Input from non-moms welcome too - I know you have memories of your own school days!

Let the Morning Momsperiment begin!


  1. It's Mo. Living in a room with grandma and grown sister had it's benefits for mom and morning routine. All of my toys were put away in the basement, so none in my room to distract me. No cartoons AT ALL in the morning, just the news and I wore a uniform. I was a painfully slow eater but mom just sat and stared at me and said "Eat" the entire time. Plus dad, as you know, was more than punctual, and I guess it wore off on me, I hate being late. My only advice tailored for your situation? Not much except clothes picked out the night before, bedroom doors closed and off limits. One washes up and dresses in bathroom while the other eats (my suggestion is fast eater eat first). There are somethings that to me are non-debatable, and that is getting to school on time. Of course my son isn't 2 yet, I'll let you know in about 3 years...

  2. I tell my son he (almost 4) can have a cracker as soon as he's buckled in his seat. So far that works. Mostly. Except when he's having a tantrum.