This is my third week of having a kindergartner and a preschooler. That means I’ve had three weeks of practice at getting my kids up, dressed, fed and out the door. And yeah, sure, the space shuttle liftoff is less complex than our morning routine, but nonetheless, I think I’m on a pretty efficient roll. I’ve managed to streamline it to a mere 41 steps. Learn from my wisdom, below.
1. Screams. My toddler wakes and yodels his delight at the coming dawn. Because the older kid needs a little more sleep, I sprint in like a hostage extraction team, snatch the 90-pound toddler from his crib (wrenching my back in the process) and spirit him into our room. I listen intently to the monitor, praying the kindergartner will sleep a bit longer.
2. Defeat. The kindergartner wakes 30 seconds later, irritable from lack of sleep.
3. The never-ending breakfast. Can two children eat any more slowly? This is not so much dawdling as a near hunger strike.
4. Clock-watching. This is the moment I start anxiously clicking my phone on and off, checking the time. I set out the kindergartener’s clothes and encourage him to get into them by himself.
5. Defeat. I stuff the 5-year-old, who’s gone as limp as a newborn, into his clothes. “Mommy,” he says, giggling. “I’m a baby. I’m a baby.”
6. Dampness. The toddler spills a cup of water on the kitchen floor, which I step in and soak my socks. Then as I’m trying to clean the breakfast mess in the kitchen, I spill dishwater on my blouse. I go to change.
7. Defeat. No clean socks, no clean blouse. I resign myself to being damp.
8. Frantic whirlwind. This is the 10 or 15 minutes of time when I am trying to get my own self dressed, my teeth brushed, my bag packed and the kids’ socks and sweaters on.
9. Bargains. One of the two kids has brushed his teeth, and that’s good enough for today. I’ll make up for it tonight.
10. Permission slips. There are 119 things to be signed and returned to the school, 79 of them with checks and the rest demanding some kind of time commitment from me. I sign three of them at random, stuff them in the kindergartner’s backpack and wonder if he’s going to be left behind on an upcoming field trip.
11. Gentle request. I ask my son to put on his shoes.
12 to 36. The putting on of the shoes.
37. Screams. I finally lose it and scream, full-throated, “Put on your shoes!” I hunch over my son, stuffing his limp feet in his sneakers. “Mommy, I’m a dinosaur. I’m a dinosaur,” he says, as my work bag, which I optimistically slung over my shoulder 10 minutes ago, slides down my back and clobbers me in the head.
38. Leaving the house. We actually walk out the door, and I lock it behind us. My husband sets off with the toddler.
39. Reversal. We head back inside for a raincoat. I debate changing my own shoes for rain boots and decide against it.
40. Defeat. My shoes are ruined.
41. Drop-off. I leave the kid at the school door and kiss him goodbye, eagerly anticipating my six hours of freedom. So what if I’m a little damp and hoarse from screaming. The kid is in school. The shuttle is aloft.
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