Ahhh!! Where did the summer go? I ask myself this question every year when Labor Day weekend is staring at me in the rearview mirror, mocking my attempts at holding on to summer a little longer. After the flurry of mindless trips to Target wandering the school supply aisles, and the frantic last minute Zappos orders are placed for school shoes, I think about the next big hurdle…
Getting my kids up EARLY. Oh the horror!
The lazy mornings of summer and sleeping in are coming to a screeching halt. And this momma has to have a plan to combat the often challenging transition from summer vacation to school year routine. I also made a decision a couple of years ago that I wanted our mornings to be structured, and as free of stress as possible while trying to get out the door.
This wasn’t something I just “decided”, however. Because goodness knows, I didn’t get the “Mom Manual” when I left the hospital with my firstborn. So I am figuring this out by making lots of mistakes. I mean GOBS of mistakes. After a couple of early years of crazy, sweaty mornings harping on the girls to move faster, eat their breakfast, and find their backpack, I knew there had to be a better way. I re-evaluated my morning routine and this is what’s currently working for me.
1. Alarm Clocks
Both of my girls have been using alarm clocks since kindergarten. Honestly, this initially came from my desire to avoid the association of me with that unpleasant moment of being awakened from a deep sleep. I also want them to learn at an early age how to be responsible with getting their day started on their own.
2. Know Your Child’s Morning Personality
I have two daughters that couldn’t be more different, and I love that. However, that also means I have to take into consideration their personalities when it comes to getting up in the morning. One flies out of bed when her alarm goes off, ready to start her day, and the other “needs her coffee” before she can function. (Don’t panic, I don’t give my girls coffee. But it’s a great analogy!) She needs to lay on the couch for ten minutes to wake up and process her morning before she hits the ground running. Because I know this about her, I set her alarm 10 minutes earlier so she can have her couch cuddle time.
3. Set the Mood
Before they come downstairs, I always have the lights in the kitchen and living room dim (I’m obsessed with dimmer switches), a candle lit, and praise and worship music playing softly in the background. I want the first thing that my daughters are exposed to in the morning to be praises to our Lord. I feel that this prepares their hearts for the day and gently awakens both their minds and their spirits.
After they come downstairs are curled up on the couch for a few minutes listening to the music, I begin slowly turning the room’s lights up from their relaxed, dim stater. I’ve found that this gradual brightening of the room helps them gently wake up and fosters a better mood for both of them.
4. The Checklist
This was probably the best addition to my morning routine. Before the “checklist” I found myself constantly nagging at them to get their teeth brushed, or put their dishes in the dishwasher, blah blah blah! I felt like a drill Sergeant barking orders and calling out commands. “Come on girls! You have five minutes! Let’s go, let’s go!” The mood was far from relaxed and I hated that they were starting their day with me yapping and yelling at them.
My solution? The checklist. I created a chart of all the things they needed to do before we walked out the door. A few things on the list include, making their beds, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, putting their dishes in the dishwasher, signing reading logs, and filling their water bottles, for a start. This list gets taped on the kitchen wall every Monday morning.
They know that they have until 7:30 am to complete and check off all of the things on the list. If they compete it on time they can earn a quarter for their piggy banks.
Mood before the checklist system was put in place…..CHAOS.
Mood after the checklist system….HEAVEN.
This was a game changer for me. Instantly, I was no longer the nagging, mean mommy. I was calm, peaceful mommy, holding two shiny quarters in my hand while two little munchkins scurried around getting stuff done! Game changer.
I continued the reward system for a little while in order to reinforce the routine, but now they just know that this is what is expected.
5. Set a Schedule
I have found that if I stick to a specific schedule each morning, almost down to the minute, then things run much more smoothly. Here’s how I break it down:
6:25: Alarms go off
6:30-6:45: Lay on the couch and gradually wake up
7:10-7:30: Complete the checklist
7:30 Out the door!
This may seem rigid to some, and obviously there are days when it needs to be adjusted, but having these time markers creates structure and structure creates peace. I’ve also found it’s very helpful when I have grandparents watching the girls overnight. It lays out the morning process for them and the girls are so familiar with it that they pretty much run the morning themselves!
6. Car Prayers
These are the last 10 minutes that I will have with my girls before they are in someone else’s hands at school for the next eight hours. So I have made it a priority to pray in the car every morning. We also recite scripture like:
Phillippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,”
Psalm 118: 24, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Getting scripture in their hearts and minds is so important, and giving them the tools to fight what may come their way each day is so important. I have found that showing my girls how to create structure in their day, and incorporating God into those first waking hours through music, scripture, and prayer is the best thing I, as a mom, can do for my kids.