Morning mess

January 06,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

The New Year is barely a week old and we're already finding one of our family resolutions hard to put into action: the resoution to get a better handle on the morning routine so we can get L. ready and out of the house in time for school. Right before we left for Christmas break we got a stern letter from the county school system pointing out how many tardy mornings L.'s accumulated followed by an annoyingly worded admonishment citing how too many late arrivals could negatively impact a child's ability to learn.

I balled up the letter and threw it into the trash.

It's not that I think showing up at school habitually tardy is an acceptable practice, but the last thing we need, as we try to try so hard to make the critical daily tasks in life manageable with L. and for L., is some letter from the school system reminding us that we don't have our household running like a smoothly oiled machine.

And, really, who does?

Some kids/people just have a hard time getting going in the morning. T. likes her sleep, but once she's up she's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to meet the day. She also likes going to school, which greatly helps the cause. L. is an early riser, but he doesn't like to leave the house. His idea of the ideal day is one in which he spends large amounts of time in his camouflage-patterned bathrobe, in front of the computer, or up in his room with his books and the cat for company. He also likes a good set routine--but one of his choosing, and he has trouble, as he always has, with timing things and processing the amount of time it takes to accomplish certain tasks. He also, as you probably know by now, hates going to school. We've tried so many different approaches this past fall: getting up earlier, setting L.'s alarm, reward systems, but we seem stuck in a rut. No matter how we strategize the morning routine, we end up leaving the house too late, and getting to school just after the last bell has rung. Yesterday we were actually in the car in time when L. realized, just as I was about to pull away, that he had to bring back a book he borrowed before Christmas, from his homeroom teacher's library. Because he was so distraught over this I let him go back into the house, which resulted in a fifteen minute delay, still no book, and we missed the second bell.

I would love to hear suggestions and advice  from those of you who have managed some type of workable system for your mornings (bearing in mind that "typical" strategies that might work for most kids won't work for L.)! We can't seem to get anything up and running that works, and I'm terrified about next year, when L. starts middle school and the last bell is at 7:30, not 8:30. I'm not sure how we'll make it, and the thought of getting up at dawn to get us up and running is already making me pretty exhausted. Maybe we'll never get a smoothly running system, but I'd like to give it a try, at least.

How do you manage the mornings at your house?