We Made It Through The School Year With Zero Morning Tardies — Here's How

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
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Is your life a complete and total shit show? Have you held a baseball jersey out the window on the way to a game to help air dry it because you forgot to switch the loads? Did you send a family picture to kindergarten with your dad wearing a shirt saying, “I don’t give a rat’s ass” printed on it and the said kindergartner’s face covered by another child holding up an amusement park map, without realizing either detail? How about packing your child’s entire lunch in gallon Ziploc bags because you have forgotten (thrice) to pick them up on your Target run? This is not an occasional thing for my family. This is my family on the daily. I am just not one of those people who will ever have her life together.

Having said that, this past school year was a life changing for me in the tardiness game. My kids were at a new school and I was hell bent on being on time. The school is not far away and there is no excuse for being late. Their old school wasn’t far either, but that didn’t stop us from tallying up 15 tardies during the 2019/2020 school year. Lest we forget that it was a pandemic and the last three months were spent at home. I shudder at the thought of what that total could have really been. This year was different; I was not letting us fall into the tardy trap. And we didn’t. Not once. All three of my children were in their classrooms every single day before the warning bell rang. And this was 100% in-person learning from September 1 through May 28. We were never late. Here’s how.


I decided to no longer let my children get their own clothes in the morning. That took too much time. Instead, I washed their school uniforms every night and had them waiting at the kitchen table in the morning. Every piece of the uniform was laid out for them. Their only responsibility was socks and underwear. There were no excuses for lost sweatshirts or ill-fitting polos. It was all there. Shoes were to be put on the steps the night before. If you didn’t put your shoes on the steps and couldn’t find them, you’d be wearing your black slip-on dress shoes with your shorts because I know those suckers are in the closet and I don’t have time to be looking for lost tennies. That nipped that situation immediately.


Backpacks were lined up on the living room couch at night before they went to bed. If you had an art bag or a Chromebook, that needed to be put in the living room too. We weren’t running around looking for folders or missing worksheets at 7am. If it wasn’t in your backpack last night, then you went to school without it. And due to COVID restrictions, I couldn’t bring any lost items to school, so you were S.O.L without it.

Lunches and Water Bottles

We put lunches together the night before. I made sandwiches and bagged up carrots and fruit and they picked out chips and a treat. Non-refrigerated items were put in lunch bags and the others spent the night in the fridge. Water bottles were placed next to the lunch bags ready to be filled before we left.


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I normally had three to four choices for breakfast that they could pick. I made sure that I had something that everyone liked to ensure minimal complaining. Sure, they got sick of waffles and oatmeal half way through the year, so we mixed it up. One morning I even got up and made pancakes and bacon; my son asked if I had something bad to tell them. Nah, my melatonin just ran out around 5:30am. As soon as they finished eating, they were brushing teeth and out the door. (This is also the time when I pass out ADHD meds to two of my darlings.)

Getting Out the Door

While they are brushing teeth, I fill water bottles and pack lunches. Everyone has to grab their own things. That includes items from the kitchen and the living room. If it was cold, all jackets and winter accessories were put by backpacks the night before. By having everything together, there was minimal chance for error or forgetting something. But if they did, they had to face the consequences at school. There was no chance for Mom to save the day.

Seating Chart

The battle for the front seat is one of my most hated morning stumbling blocks, so I nipped that too. We worked on an alternating schedule which gave everyone equal opportunity for a front seat, captain’s chair and being forced to be in the third row in my minivan.

The Ride to School

Our goal was to be in the car no later than 7:25am so that we could hear our favorite radio show play a game at 7:30am. If we missed that game, you could see smoke coming out of my ears. One, because I like to hear it and two, that meant that I had less time to make the 10 minute ride to school and teeter on being late. This only happened a handful of times; most days we arrived with at least 10 minutes to spare and everyone had smiles on their faces because I wasn’t screaming, cursing and speeding like years past.

Like I said, my life is a disaster. You read nothing in there about making beds or clearing breakfast dishes, did you? I also didn’t mention that we are doing our morning routine pretty quietly so I don’t wake up my husband who goes to bed later than us and wakes up later too. Not a word about me getting dressed, huh? This all goes down in my lamb nightgown from wakeup to drop off. There was also not a word about the dog that is so insane that she WALKED INTO OUR NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE after she escaped the backyard one day. There are so many details that I left out, I gave you the Cliff’s Notes version.

I am not organized. You will not see me on Tik Tok opening my pantry to see everything in darling reusable containers. That real estate is covered by boxes and bags smashed in to make use of every single square inch. But being on time in the morning, I’ve got that down. These are all simple things that have truly made my life easier. I feel like zero tardies is one of my life’s greatest accomplishments and I accept all congratulations.

One other quick tip, if you have to be early, just make your kids sleep in their clothes. That’ll shave a good two minutes off of your time. Not that I know anything about that, though…

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