Things I loathe: Overkill summertime air-conditioning. Spaced-out drivers. Selfies where people are trying to look sexy. Cockroaches. Dragging my kids through their get-ready-for-school routines, morning after morning after identical morning… “Get dressed. Eat your breakfast. Keep eating. EAT. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. BRUSH YOUR FREAKING HAIR, LIKE YOU DO EVERY SINGLE MORNING, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”
Also, undercooked egg whites.
I loathe this repetitive morning struggle so much that this year I’ve decided my 6-year-old and 3-year-old will take charge of their own hair-brushing destiny. And this will happen by way of a laminated Morning Routine sticker chart.
Each child is expected to follow the prompts on the chart and add a small star sticker when the task is completed. (I use stickers instead of dry-erase markers because they’re less messy but still fun for the kids.) If all tasks are completed in an acceptable and timely way, they are rewarded by a big smiley face sticker and a mini-marshmallow before we head off to school. (If this does not excite or motivate your kids, up the ante.) I do still have to constantly nudge them to keep moving, but now all I have to say is, “Chart,” and that’s a relief. Small victories keep us moms going.
Basic tasks included on the chart (keeping in mind that much of the morning’s work has been completed the night before)
1. Make bed. The best time to make one’s bed is just after rolling out of it, according to Deniece Schofield in Confessions of an Organized Homemaker.
2. Get dressed. A mom of four once told me that kids should get dressed before they eat breakfast, because if worse comes to worst, you can always give them a quick portable something to eat in the car, but they can’t show up to school naked. Have kids pick out their clothes the night before, complete with socks and sweater, and lay them in a convenient place. Since my girls share a room, Firstborn (who wakes up earlier) grabs her folded outfit and heads into the dimly lit living room with me to get dressed while I make her breakfast.
3. Eat breakfast. Kids should have some protein for breakfast, especially if they don’t get a snack before lunch. Our go-tos include eggs, sausage and Greek yogurt.
4. Brush teeth and hair. I have moved the kids’ toothbrushes and hair accessories into our master bathroom, for the dual purpose of simultaneously brushing my teeth and hair and also keeping the former-kids’-bathroom-turned-guest bathroom almost perfectly clean at all times.
5. Put on sweater/coat and shoes. Depending on where you keep your shoes, this step might be last. As for sending my kids to school with a sweater in the 90 degree South Carolina heat, well, please note the beginning of this post regarding my feelings about intense air-conditioning.
6. Grab backpack and lunchbox with water bottle. Kids can pack their backpacks the night before as they finish their homework. I also pack their lunchboxes the night before and keep them in the fridge. I’ve been using a quick-reference lunch schedule I made (which I’ll post soon) so that I don’t have to stand in the middle of my kitchen at 8pm scratching my head about what the heck kind of well-balanced, wholesome meal to pack them on Thursday that’s different enough from the ones I packed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, assuming I’d even remember what I’d packed them on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday without the lunch schedule, which is doubtful.
I know that school has already started, so getting organized or implementing new strategies now might feel too late, like we’ve missed the perfect-clean-start boat. But for many of us, now is when we actually have time to get organized, not to mention reflect on what’s working or not working so far.
If getting your kids ready for school bugs you as much as encountering a loathsome cockroach in the garage, feel free to take my Morning Routine Chart, modify it to your liking, print, laminate, tape to the bottom of the fridge, and enjoy.
And let me know how it works out.