I wish I were here to offer you valuable tips about making weekday mornings run smoothly — but in reality, I’m the kind of person those tips are geared toward. I’m the kind of person you can find wiping the crust out of my eyes with one hand as I sift through a basket of clean (but wrinkled) laundry in hopes of unearthing something decent for my kids to wear. I’m the kind of person who realizes four minutes before school departure that I haven’t packed any lunches and at least two of my kids are missing shoes. I’m the kind of person whose mornings are less “well-oiled machine” and more “Why can’t I stay on top of this shit?” scramble.
I’ve tried to remedy the chaos of our morning routine. I’m all over Pinterest looking for helpful advice, pinning the gems I find right alongside all the other stuff I’m totally going to do, like hand-crafting that patio furniture entirely out of recycled wood pallets. And sometimes I’ll find a tip that works for us — for a little bit, as long as I have the energy to sustain it. But then reality sets in.
Take morning checklists, for example. A list of tasks your kids can get done before school, checking each one off as they complete it for a sense of accomplishment — it sounds fabulous in theory. And for a little while, it worked. Each morning, I would present my children with a neat slip of paper on which I’d written things like “brush teeth” and “eat breakfast” with a little box next to them. But it never occurred to me that in time, this would actually incite a competition between my boys as to who could get theirs done the fastest, resulting in an inevitable argument over somebody gloating.
And also, let’s be honest: Checklists require effort. I had to spend 15 extra minutes the night before making four different lists, tailoring each to my kids’ specific morning tasks. That was 15 precious minutes of the evening that I could have spent eating a bowl of ice cream and watching reality TV. (Uh…I mean, catching up on current world news and doing yoga. Yeah, that’s it.)
I also tried to get a leg up on the morning mad dash by preparing make-ahead breakfasts. Nutritious! Delicious! I was going to rule the breakfast game by preemptively stocking my fridge with things like “overnight refrigerator oatmeal” and “bacon and egg frittatas.” No more sugary processed crap for this family. I was going to provide them with healthy, quality food and save time. It sounded like a win.
Unfortunately, my kids — who will literally eat a frozen waffle while it’s still frozen — turned up their noses at my refrigerator oats and stuff. And although I employ a strict “eat it or starve” philosophy when it comes to mealtime around here, they were doing more starving than eating (and wasting a hell of a lot of food in the process, the ingrates). They went to school without taking much more than the required courtesy nibble, and I ate four breakfasts and gained 15 pounds. So I returned to my tried-and-true breakfast recipes: Step one, pour cereal. Step two, pour milk.
I thought maaaaybe if I could just get them to be a little more independent in the mornings, it would help speed up the getting ready process a tiny bit. They could pick out their own clothes and whatnot. I guess this might work if your kids are older or have a natural fashion sense. However, my elementary-age kids are not actually fashionable, nor do they seem to care. When I told them they were picking out their own outfits from now on, I didn’t anticipate that one would come out of his room wearing two different colors of plaid, one would be sporting a holey Spiderman T-shirt and a pair of high-water cargo pants that he dug out of a box of clothes destined for Goodwill, and one would have on a size 4T shirt because kids don’t understand that just because they manage to squeeze into an item of clothing doesn’t mean it “fits.” I ended up having to find them acceptable outfits at the last minute, which is pretty much what I do every morning anyway, which ended up saving me zero time.
No matter what I do — no matter how good my intentions or how ambitious my Pinterest boards — I’ve just had to accept the fact that mornings around here are going to be a disordered, untidy, shitshow. It may not go smoothly, but the end result is the same: My kids get to school, and they don’t look like they got dressed in the dark. So I reassure myself that the frozen waffle box says “made with 8 grams of whole grain” and “good source of fiber.” And as I dash to find their shoes and my keys, I say things like “just brush your teeth extra well tonight.” I know that once they get to school, I will finally be able to take a breath.
…until the next chaotic morning, that is.