Mornings for my family are an absolute battle. It’s hard enough to leave the warm comfort of bed for the cold tile floor, not to mention all of the activities required to get the kids to school on time. Below are the 7 stages of morning hell in our household.
Stage 1: Pre- Wake-up
Pre-wake up applies to one of my eight year olds, who likes to wake up at 5am. At this hour, the house is dark, the covers are swaddling me into a blissful coma, and suddenly I hear a voice. “Mommy? What is my tongue made out of?”
I peel open an eye and see him standing beside my bed, fully dressed for school and staring at me expectantly.
I say in a scratchy rasp, “Buddy, it’s not even seven am yet. Go back to sleep or you can play very quietly downstairs.”
Then I hear him putter softly down the stairs and play a game that starts out softly but quickly crescendos into a rock concert with a ten-minute drum solo. I pull the covers over my head and try to ignore it.
Stage 2: Actual Wake-up
I’ve been awake since the impromptu Tommmy Lee concert, but it’s time for me to wake up my other two boys. I open up blinds, turn on lights, and run in and out of their rooms, sounding like a tornado siren. “Time to get up, kids WHOO WHOO WHOO!” I yell. Five minutes of this, and they finally open their eyes and agree to meet me at the breakfast table.
Stage 3: Breakfast
What’s the preferred food for breakfast? Trick question! It’s: Anything we don’t have. If I’ve gone to the store and bought out the cereal aisle, they want oatmeal. If we have that too, they want pancakes. “I don’t ever cook pancakes,” I try to reason with my 4-year old. “But it’s what I WANT!” he exclaims. I eventually convince him to sit down with us and have some cereal.
Breakfast is over when I take a glance and the clock and have a panic attack. “Time to get dressed!” I yell, casting a desolate glance at the kitchen table to see that most of the food is either unconsumed or on the floor. But no time to deal with that now! We’re on to stage 4.
Stage 4: Getting dressed.
Stage 4 is all about my boys seeing what they can get away with and me shooting down their ideas.
No, you may not wear your pajamas to school.
Yes, you need to wear pants. It’s twelve degrees outside.
No, you may not dress as Darth Vader or the Storm Troopers.
Yes, you need to wear underwear.
No, you may not wear your underwear outside your pants today. Or ever.
At some point, they all manage to find clothes that won’t result in a call home from school and they meet me downstairs. I ask, “Did you brush your teeth?” And they trod upstairs.
Stage 5: Figuring out what minimal amount of teeth brushing will suffice.
I tell my kids stories about fanatical dentists with lithium-ion Black & Decker drills and yet my children still inhabit the fantasyland of youth in which cavities won’t happen to them. Each morning, they swipe a wet toothbrush across their mouth and yell, “Finished!”
This is the stage where I weigh tardiness against hygiene. Everyone who has ever been a mom has done this calculus. I want us to leave on time but then again I don’t want anyone’s breath to smell like the inside of Lexington Fish Market. “This time with toothpaste!” I insist. “Be sure to brush slowly and meticulously and also hurry hurry hurry!” My kids give each other quizzical looks and try to brush their teeth slowly and quickly at the same time.
Stage 6: The Backpack Assembly
Now the kids are dressed, eaten and their teeth are brushed. Those three tasks have taken an hour and a half to complete. The first bell is going to ring in five minutes and we haven’t left the house yet.
My twins are responsible for putting together their own backpack. On the door I’ve pasted detailed, color-coded instructions in large block font. These instructions are impossible to miss and yet every morning, one of the twins darts outside without his backpack altogether.
Once I yell after him and he comes back, I refer him to the step-by-step set of instructions for what goes inside. The selection of snack alone takes several minutes and I just don’t understand why. The entire universe of possible snacks can be broken down into: apples, Pirates Booty, Goldfish or carrot sticks. Should be pretty easy, right?
Wrong. This is a very difficult decision and one that must be made with the utmost gravity. Much like wine is paired with a meal, the snack must be paired with the lunch option, it must satisfy the feng shui of the backpack, it must contain the correct combination of ingredients to appeal to the specific palate of the child on that specific morning.
At some point I turn into Crazy Morning Mommy and yell, “JUST PICK SOMETHING ALREADY!” Then they hastily throw something in their bags and we all manage to get out of the house.
Stage 7: The Walk to School
This is when I get my morning workout, hoofing it up the long block to school with my children in tow, yelling at them to get out of the way of cars, and willing time to stand still so we can make it in time for the second bell.
And then, voila, we reach the school and my twins go inside. My little guy and I have a lazy walk back. We examine the foliage, talk about superheroes and take our time. There’s no evidence of the madness we’ve just endured – craziness that in one short day, we’re going to do all over again.