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School Mornings Without Screaming

Tips from one whose cat once bit her for shrieking too much at the kids.

Next Monday school starts. For people like me who had a nanny for the summer, this means an end to easy mornings where I waltzed out the door on time, leaving sleepy kids clutching their list of chores which they did maybe half of.

Consider this my resolution to make school mornings happy this year, and my tips for getting there. I, of course, would be pleased to hear any of yours. This excludes those of you who never once yelled at your kids. I’ve heard people like that claim to exist but I don’t believe it.

  • First tip -- make sure you’re in good shape emotionally. This means that if you need exercise to keep your temper, get that exercise. If you’re facing a tough time at work -- and many of us are -- talk to your spouse about it the night before so you can focus on the kids in the morning. You get my drift.
  • Second tip -- do as much as possible the night before. This may mean laying out outfits, having kids shower in the evening and planning lunches. Personally, I think sandwiches get gross and dry out if you make them the night before but do as much as you can.
  • Third tip -- get them in bed at a reasonable time. Ours have recently started going to bed at 9 p.m. They can have a reading light and a book but no toys or games. It’s not foolproof but at least the kids who are genuinely tired will pass out quickly and give you a good start in the morning. I often point out to them that children grow at night, according to scientists, and that “You aren’t going to grow if you’re not sleeping.”
  • Fourth tip -- give the kids some “pre-wake” time in the morning. I usually make some noise in their room at 7 a.m. or 7:15, telling them, “You don’t have to get up but you can if you want to.” Usually one does, and one doesn’t. But even the one who doesn’t wakes up a little and is easier to rouse at 7:30.
  • Fifth tip -- have a predictable routine in the morning. I tell mine the temperatures expected for the day and suggest outfits, and then tell them the breakfast choices, which vary very little. They know that they have to get ready for school and do one chore (empty the dishwasher or clean the catbox) before going to school. 
  • Sixth tip -- lie to them. Every time one of mine wakes in an extremely grumpy mood, I say, “Did you grow last night? You do look taller.” They brighten up and start reaching for high shelves. Remember -- 90 percent of parenthood is spin. If you need to tell fart jokes to get them going, tell the fart jokes.
  • Seventh tip -- arrange to walk to school with other kids if possible. There’s no catalyst for getting a kid moving than to have a friend at the door urging them to hurry up. 
  • Eighth tip -- no talking or yelling room to room. I’ve found that it’s a short step from friendly shouting to angry yelling so we’ve tried to ban yelling from one room in the house to another. This means that if I start to get angry, I’m less likely to yell at recalcitrant children who have been told at least SIX times to brush their teeth and are instead mooning into the mirror arranging their quarter inch long hair.

This ban came about after I lost my temper one morning about four years ago after telling both kids repeatedly to brush and neither did. I was yelling something about how “I WAS NOT PUT ON THIS EARTH TO TELL YOU EIGHT TIMES TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH EVERY DANG MORNING! I BORE MYSELF BY BEING SUCH A NAG. YOU KIDS MADE ME A NAG AND I HATE IT!!!”

Well, Buddy, the obese male cat, listened for a while and decided he had had enough. He walked over to me, belly waving from side to side and gave me a sharp bite on my ankle.

We looked at him, astonished. Son, then in kindergarten, looked up and said, “Does that mean he loves me?"

If only that cat would bite the kids if they don’t brush their teeth. Hmmmm, there’s a thought.

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