There’s a parenting FB page I am on that sometimes brings up the topic of morning routines. How to make it shorter, faster, simpler, happier, smoother, easier. There are people with three kids who take an hour and then people with three kids who take over 2 hours. There’s the time it takes if one parent does it alone, and the time it takes if two parents manage it together. There’s the craziness involved when you wake up late, and the same damn level of craziness if you get up on time.
Listen people, you cannot win. Just stop trying.
Ok, that’s pessimistic. But I realized that I also cannot compare my morning to some other single mom with one kid. We do things differently. For example, I know people who make their kid’s lunch the night before. I CAN’T EVEN WASH THE DISHES AFTER DINNER, so you know I am not making lunch. And neither is the kid. He’s too busy playing Wii or trying to kill me in Monopoly or reading. I kinda also don’t want to spend a chunk of the evening thinking about the shit for the next day. We do make sure his homework folder is in his backpack but really that’s it for morning prep at night. We are minimalists. Evening is down time. Tomorrow is tomorrow.
So how does our morning look? Kinda like this:
6:00 – first alarm goes off. press snooze or turn it off. kid wakes up and comes to snuggle.
6:30 – second alarm goes off. press snooze. wake up but stay in bed. maybe fall back asleep. wake up again. tickle the kid to wake up. grab phone to check email, weather, Facebook… don’t judge.
7:00 – third alarm goes off (YES. three alarms) if we are not up by now, this is when we jump out of bed in a manic panic.
6:30/7:00 – 7:15 – Kid gets dressed and starts making his lunch while I make breakfast. I’m reminding him that he can’t just have some cold pasta and a juice box and lots of marshmallows for lunch. And he can only have TWO marshmallows. And he needs a fruit or veggie and some chips. (I should really make a list for him…) He also has to take a snack, so he sets aside the snack he wants to bring while I draw on his brown paper bag (more on that later).
7:20 – fourth alarm goes off. This is the reminder for me to get in the shower and start getting myself ready.
7:15 – 7:30/7:40 – I’m in the shower while the kid eats breakfast. This is where there is variation. Some days breakfast takes a little longer to make if I make a hot breakfast. And then it will take longer to eat as well. Some days my shower will take a little longer if I need to shave my legs or wash my hair or if I just fall asleep standing up (true story). And then there was the time the turtles were in the tub for a week and I had to drain the tub, take out the turtles, take my shower, then refill the tub to put the turtles back in.
7:30/7:40 – Yell out of bathroom door for kid to quit his dawdling, finish his breakfast and come brush his teeth and wash his face. Which usually involves him just splashing some water on his forehead and then me grabbing a wet washcloth and scrubbing the crust from his eyes and the crumbs from his face, and smoothing his hair down. He hates it when I do that, but apparently not enough to just wash his face properly himself. I figure if I manhandle his face enough times he’ll eventually just get sick of me and do it himself. Right?
7:40/7:50 – Me throwing clothes on while I’m barking orders at him to put on his shoes and coat and get his back pack and make sure his lunch and snack are in there and feed the cats and clear his breakfast dishes from the table.
7:50/8:00/8:10 – out the door! either running or meandering depending on the time. We have a drive to his school that can take 25 minutes or 45 minutes. On the days we are late leaving, I pray it’s one of those 25 minute days.
Now about that snack bag. I draw a picture on his snack bag every day that I take him to school, and have done so since kindergarten. So for almost 3 years now. I have no idea how it started. Just one morning I decided his snack bag was kinda plain so maybe I should draw a smiley face on it. And it got more elaborate from there, I guess. Usually I’ll draw an illustration from whatever we read the night before. Or a scene from a movie we might have seen over the weekend. Or I’ll draw my son doing something like feeding the cat treats or riding his new bike. Or there were some random funny ones, like this winter I drew piles of snow with just his head sticking out and a sign that said “we surrender!” The drawings are always in colored pencil on just one side of the bag, and on the other side is something like “have a great day! love, mommy” There was one morning we were running so very very late and I said to him that I didn’t have time to draw on his snack bag. He was so disappointed that of course I had to try anyway and made a really quick single color sketch. Some days they are simple, some days they are very detailed. I’ve thought of drawing them the night before or maybe drawing a bunch of them to have a stash for a few weeks. But I like the spontaneity of doing it in the morning, and he likes to watch the drawings evolve as he eats his breakfast. Or sometimes he doesn’t see the drawing until he gets to school because I’ll just put the snack in his backpack without showing it to him. I’ve thought of documenting them each day, but I can’t keep up with remember that kind of crazy. And, the snack bag drawings are for him. They are ephemeral items meant for a short time and then thrown away. And that’s fine.
In writing this, I realize that’s what really makes our mornings significant. The snack bag drawings. For 5-10 minutes we slow down while I draw. It’s very meditative. Even if I wake up in a foul mood or he’s feeling grumpy and whiney or we’re manic or I’m yelling at him about using a gallon size bag to pack popcorn for lunch (wtf?), this simple act slows all that down. I sometimes feel bad that I don’t eat breakfast with him, just every once in a while. But that’s not what helps us start our day. He’s happy to see me draw something special for him and looks forward to school when he can have his snack in his special bag. Well. I only just now figured that out.