Routine is generally a good thing when you’re a parent with littles. You quickly learn, regardless of your parenting style and daily schedule, that consistency brings confidence and comfort. Except for those parts of our routine where chaos creeps in. I’m looking at you, crazy mornings before school and pre-dinner witching hour.
These parts of our day have always been difficult, and I think to some extent this is inevitable in these early years. I’ve never really tried to change much about these chaotic moments for that reason. It’s an impossible standard to expect our kids never to have bad moments, so I often just ride out the bad moments.
But, parent coach Aubrey Hargis raised a good set of questions when it comes to rituals and routine. When do things tend to fall apart during your day, and what rituals will you add to smooth the flow and create consistency?
I’ve never really tried to approach the chaotic times in our day by asking how I can change these parts of our day. I realized my approach has been rooted in stagnancy. Of course we can be accepting of the fact that our kids will have hard moments, but we shouldn’t give up on looking for ways to find and model calm in our home.
I spent this week observing our mornings as they are. I tried to empathize with my kids and see things from their perspective. I tried to keep track of my mood, my engagement, my tone, and my words. And the overarching feeling was yuck.
We all wake up around the same time. Both kids tend to wake up cranky from the get-go, immediately wanting something to drink and eat. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get my coffee and open my eyes. Things tend to settle while they are eating, and then I go right into tasking my oldest to start getting dressed. Of course he doesn’t listen, and over the course of the remaining 30 minutes I will probably repeat myself 23 times until eventually getting him ready myself, and then hurriedly getting baby sister ready to tag along. Then we get in the car and I’ll put on a podcast.
The morning hour before school is full of time pressures and tasking. No wonder something as little as offering a choice between what shirt to wear doesn’t even begin to solve this.
I needed to add moments where my kids were allowed to be kids. I needed to diversify my words away from tasking to genuine conversation. I needed to add things in the background that would be calming, not disengaging.
My kids don’t need to perform in the morning, and I need to be understanding of that; I don’t even feel like performing in the morning. Their entire days are filled with performing, so why do I act so taken back when my preschooler refuses to do something like get dressed? These chaotic moments are not because they are struggling to listen; it’s because I am struggling to listen to them. I think they simply want their mama before they have to leap into their days. That is a reasonable ask. They are 3 and 1.
I can move breakfast outside as a fun summer change. I can put my phone down and wait to catch up on emails until after drop-off. I can ensure I’m not overreaching on expectations of independence around getting dressed, and I can plan on support until they otherwise show me they no longer want my help. I can make the car ride inclusive and play music instead of podcasts. I can choose to be a bit more playful, gentle in my touch. I will probably never be a morning person, admittedly, but if I can put a pep in my step for other adults who see me in the mornings, I can do that for my own kids because they deserve no less respect.
If I want my toddlers to become teenagers who talk to me in the morning, then maybe this starts now by normalizing our mornings as a fleeting window to connect first as a family. And maaaaybe, I could try to get up a wee bit earlier and have my coffee first.