school year's resolutions

3 Things I'm Doing Differently This Back-To-School Season

I’m determined to create and implement routines that work for us — and toss out what doesn't.

In my house in the past, mornings have been a series of stressed-out exclamations, while I try to navigate hectic (more like disastrous) mornings with four sons under age 7: Wake up! Come downstairs! Eat breakfast! Hurry up! Why do you have no underwear on! Stop tackling your brother while he’s eating! With my husband heading to work before they get up, and my career having been deemed the “flexible” work from home position, the mornings are all me, and they are a lot.

But this back-to-school season, I’m determined to create and implement routines that work for us and lead to a more peaceful morning to start everyone’s day off better. Here’s where I’ve been — and where I’m going.

A cubby system we actually use

How many drop zones, entryway tables, cubby holes, and other furniture “systems” have I made? Too many. But this year, I sat down to consider how we really use ours, and how we can make our space work for our needs, before school and after drop-off. The first problem with past attempts was that they were often too high, with our built-in drop zone near the garage door clearly meant for adults.

So, this year, there’s a child-size locker/cubby system right near the front door. I now have a photo and name of each child on their dedicated cubby (and the dog, who has his own) that holds backpacks, finished artwork, jackets, lunch boxes, and water bottles. Separately, I made three hanging wire bins near the kitchen for kids to drop papers they think I need to see, or homework that needs to be completed that night. Theoretically, and that’s a BIG theoretically, this will help prevent papers from getting lost in the shuffle, and prevent backpacks from being strewn about the front porch, living room, and more. We will see.

Buffer time with a fake bus arrival

Our bus comes at 8:44. My kids think this year the bus comes at 8:34. That’s because I’m determined to build buffer time into our schedule in the morning for someone to literally pee their pants standing at the bus stop, forget to brush their teeth, or remember that it’s show and tell that day (all true stories). So now, I’m fine with them thinking the bus is always a “bit behind” so that they can be just a bit ahead.

One — and only one — breakfast

Since my husband leaves early for work, he pitches in before he leaves by setting up breakfasts (and scrambles me some eggs, so I will keep him!). Sometimes this leads to kids sitting down to eat as they come downstairs. Sometimes it leads to catastrophes, like trying to pour cereal back in the box to get a different kind, fighting over who gets milk vs. juice, and other morning shenanigans.

This year, by increasing my kids’ voice and choice in the matter, they are making their own breakfasts — and just once. Remaking meals has been the source of major stress and set us back significantly time-wise. Now, using inspiration from TikTok momfluencer Shannon Doherty’s Self Serve Breakfast Station, I plan on opting out of breakfast making aside from helping them ensure they are getting multiple food groups in each morning. The same goes for lunch box packing, with her similar setup for that as well. Working smarter, not harder. Doherty talked to Scary Mommy and explained that it’s a work in progress, and something she’s evolved over the years, not an instant game changer.

She also assured us to not worry about making every hack work all at once, and reminded me that you don’t have to try to change it all by the first day of school. But hopefully just one or two tweaks can make for smoother mornings, and even an occasional smile from both parties as they hop on the bus. Or at least we won’t be sprinting down the street after the bus.

Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice. She has been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Glamour, Shape, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest, Parents, Women's Health, and Insider.

Alex has a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Journalism, both from Miami University. She has also taught high school for 10 years, specializing in media education.