"Chaos is a friend of mine." - Bob Dylan
Back-to-school is here again. The alarm clock rings. The marathon begins. Olympic marathon it feels sometimes, as if you are racing against your own self and all that life throws at you, which is a lot as you try to shift gears. You’ve gotten used to the softer pace of summer. You sometimes got to take naps, vacations - the kind of things you’d like to do a lot more of. Instead you must now snap to attention and find the rhythms that you knew by heart last school year, pulling all your little ducks in a row behind you - happily we hope.
Too often we can find ourselves fluctuating between Super Mom in Overdrive and Zombie Mom those first few weeks.
From spilled milk to argumentative siblings to lost homework to road construction, there’s so much that can make you crazy before 8AM rolls around. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Less hassle in your castle is a must for every family’s happily ever after.
Maybe fairy tales do come true, but you have to make them happen. Manage your expectations. It’s good to set realistic goals for your family, including realistic time goals. While your family makes the shift to the school year schedule, do yourself a favor and factor in an extra half-hour in the mornings. Rush and panic only create more stress for everyone. Likewise, a positive, gentle pace is contagious too - and will help move everyone in your family toward a better day at work and school. Just keep in mind that the school year won’t be a string of perfect mornings. Accidents will happen, kids will misbehave, you’ll oversleep…and that’s okay.
A little preparation goes a long way. At the end of a long day, it’s easy to put off small tasks by muttering, “I’ll take care of it in the morning.” Be honest - that strategy never works. When morning comes, you’re slammed from the get-go with too much to do and not enough time. Your anxiety shoots up to twenty when it should be a two!
Remember you come first. If you get home super frazzled, take a ten-minute power nap to refresh your mind and body. Then organize your prep tasks for the next day. Lay out your kids’ clothes and yours the night before. Prepack lunches; if your children are old enough, get them to help. Don’t wait to go over your fifth grader’s spelling words. Sign all necessary papers. Have a designated spot for bags and homework so you aren’t tearing the house apart to find things in your pre-coffee fog.
Most kids will likely need retraining from summer’s later bedtimes. Set up a pleasant early-to-bed family routine: make family quiet time to look at the stars or read a bedtime story. Routine works wonders. Sweet dreams!
Start the day with positive intentions. The things you think about early in the morning can affect your mood, outlook, and actions for the rest of the day. Leave a love note to yourself on your alarm clock: “This is going to be a good day!”
Eat a breakfast fit for a queen (or king!). A good breakfast boosts energy, focus, and creativity, and lowers stress. A simple bowl of whole grain oatmeal topped with fresh fruit is a great choice. Eggs make wonderful breakfasts too. A single egg provides one-quarter of your child’s daily protein requirement.
Don’t expect little princes and princesses to rule before they’re ready. If your preschooler struggles with getting himself dressed, don’t waste valuable time each morning prodding him to put on his clothes. If it’s a daily struggle, it could be your child needs a bit of help - or motivation. It’s up to you to understand which one. As every parent knows, kids are great at finding loopholes and at persuading us to do for them what they don’t want to do for themselves. So if it’s not a question of ability, but rather one of preference, find a way to encourage your child to complete morning tasks.
I tell my children that they have to get dressed each morning before they can play. If they’re dilly-dallying, I’ll sit on the floor and begin to draw, build with Legos, or play with Dora and Spiderman. Invariably, clothes are put on very quickly because Alessio and Sienna want to come join in!
Resist the rehashing impulse. How many of us are car lecturers? After a tough morning, do you find yourself talking to the backseat, stern looks in the rearview mirror, fingers tapping on the steering wheel while you rehash the morning mishaps that made you so mad? We all do it. But a misery ride to school doesn’t help you or your children off to a better day. Try this instead: When you get in the car, take a deep breath and let it all go. Sing a song. Reconnect. Change the conversation: “How are we going to make it a good day? What do you think will make it fun and special?” Talk with your children about what you are going to do to make your day amazing. Then do it!
Whether this is your first year with a child in school, or your fifth, it’s important to remember that having it all isn’t doing and being it all - it’s knowing how to enjoy the ride. Balance and perspective are key.