When my brother was small, getting him ready for school in the morning was so difficult it led Shannon (my mother) to consult a therapist. The conversation went something like this, "As fast as I put his clothes on he has them off. Once I sent him back to his room to get dressed and when I checked on him he had on a three-piece suit and a football helmet. Dr., what can I do?"
After the therapist stopped laughing she said, "Put him in the car in his pajamas. I guarantee he will be dressed by the first stop light."
Well, with the invention of car seats, Shannon had to get a little more creative. There are still days when school mornings are total chaos. My kids won't get out of bed, socks are missing, suddenly someone hands me a permission slip two minutes before the bus is due and needs money for a field trip. At the same time my husband is trying to get out the door for work. So, how can you make your mornings run smoother, get your kids to school with matching socks and still manage to kiss your husband? Here are a few things Mom and I have learned over our collective 35 plus years of parenting.
Early to bed, early to rise
I know, you're laughing at me now. I can hear you saying: you don't know my kids, they won't go to bed early. Don't stop reading yet. Just know we've been there. Between us, we have 10 kids from (censored to hide Mom's age) to 1. My four kids under age 11 all go to bed at 8:20 every night, summer or winter. We don't have fights anymore, we do have the occasional whine, but they know what's expected of them. Both Shannon and I have succeeded in this area. Children in Europe are in bed early, sometimes by 7 p.m. While living in Germany, I watched parents send their children to bed early, and watched them wake up happy and ready to go. So, how do you achieve this bedtime miracle?
"To bed," doesn't always mean asleep
But, rest leads to sleep. Tell older children that they can read or write in journals to soft light, if they are in bed. My mother, let us feel like we were getting away with something as we lay in bed reading great books. We usually fell asleep in minutes. She made sure we had a supply of uplifting and educational literature, including books on marine biology and fantasies like "The Hobbit."
Make it a family rule
Have a meeting, explain what is going to happen if your children are old enough to understand - make it an every night rule. If you have older children, you could give them one late night a week, or a month. Depending on how they handle it.
Establish a routine
We get our PJ's on, brush teeth, read a book or two, read the scriptures and say a family prayer. Prayer is a wonderful way to bring a close to your day, it brings a calming peace into your home. Then we walk the kids to bed, help them say a personal prayer and tuck them in. We read the younger ones a book. My older children are allowed to read for an hour in bed, they usually fall asleep before the hour is over.
Set up nick names and fun rituals to create bonding time
Let the children have special toys to sleep with, like our favorites: "Stinky" Bear or "Hoogy." Maybe your little guy likes to fly into his bed like an airplane. Shannon has a fairy door. When the kids visit they can feed the fairies before bed as long as the grownups eat the fairy food before the morning. Remember, you can make bedtime a positive experience or something to dread.
Stick to the routine
Sometimes this means leaving parties early or working social schedules around it. No matter how hard it is or tired you are, stick to it, especially during the school year. You will be amazed at how smoothly your days will go and how organized you will become. Relish in the fact that if they get more sleep, you get more sleep. You will be happier in the morning too.
These tips will help your mornings run smoother. It will also give you needed time at the end of the day to spend in preparation for the next morning, or time alone with your spouse, even some time to yourself.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
I'm not speaking about nutrition, though that is important, I'm referring to the time spent together as a family. Sitting down to breakfast not only helps our relationships, it helps us schedule, as we talk about our days ahead. We have time to plan before we leave. I love having everyone talking and giggling around the table.
The early bird catches the worm
We get up at 6:30, knowing the kids don't have to leave until 8:30. The kids are expected to get up and be dressed before they can come to breakfast. This gives me a chance to look them over and make sure they're dressed for the weather while they eat. After breakfast, we have everyone get their school bags ready, pack lunches, and place shoes and socks by the door. If they have time left, our kids opt to practice piano or do their chores so they have time after school to play.
Technology is off-limits
When we banish video games, TV, cell phones, even radio from our morning it runs smoother. If you have extra time in your mornings, let them finish chores, read, or work on a school project. This rule includes adults. We set the example and they have our complete attention.
Sometimes mornings are still chaos. But not nearly as often. Plan for happy send-offs and don't forget good-bye hugs and lunch box love notes.