The trouble with the morning routine

If you’re a parent, sooner or later you will feel the desire to bitch about the morning routine. Seems that no matter what form of media you pick up, be it a parenting magazine, a blog or whatever, someone somewhere has issues with their kids during the morning rush.

Granted, most people who gripe about this have schoolaged kids. Or at least kids who have to BE somewhere at a given time during the morning hours. But even young kids who attend voluntary daycare part-time can drive their parents to the edge of a deep, dark cliff…

Makes one consider the various parenting options endlessly debated in above-mentioned media forms.

Like reverse psychology. Reverse psychology can be applied in many forms. Most parents understand the intricacies of this method when dealing with stubborn toddlers, and young preschoolers. Sometimes, it works, sometimes, it doesn’t. It depends on so many things, and there’s never any guarantee the desired end result will prevail.

But reverse psychology doesn’t enter my mind nearly as often when I’m trying to parent my almost 4 year old boy than when I parent the 15 month old girl.

Let it be known that I have a great son. He is funny, smart and patient, cute, sweet and intelligent, adorable, quirky and a great brother to his toddler sister. He makes me laugh (and cry) every day.

Sometimes, he comes up with the most amusing ideas.

Like the other morning. There was a huge windstorm going on. As we’re climbing into the car to get to his school, I noticed a shingle from the roof on the driveway. We’ve been talking about getting the roof redone this spring, but now that the wind is sending pieces of it flying across the neighbourhood, perhaps it’s time to start getting some quotes. Anyway, Benjamin was all impressed about this shingle.

“What’s a shingle?”

“Why is it flying off our roof?”

“Will we have a conburtible roof now?”

(Conburtible…he’s so cute…)

I feel so lucky to have him in my life. He, and his sister, make me feel so full and complete, it’s hard to even imagine what life was like before those two arrived.

But living with a preschooler and a toddler is nothing but a continuous emotional roller coaster ride. Not a day goes by when I don’t feel exasperation, fury, anger, dispair, and finally hopelessness, resignation and defeat. Because whether together or apart, they can both drive me to that cliff on a daily basis.

I have been worked up about this for some time. Why do I make so many mistakes? Why can’t I get through to these people? Why won’t they LISTEN? What does it take to make them REASONABLE??

Then I came across this article, which the National Post featured a couple of days ago. They analyzed the different parenting styles, and gave each a label. Although labeling parenting styles is something I actually prefer to ignore myself, I found the article written well enough to keep me reading.

To make things just a tad more confusing, I saw a bit of myself in each of their labels.  There’s the Shock and Awe style, the Evil Eye style, the Rational Saint, the Ringmaster, the Void, the Mona Lisa and the Parking Ticket.

I know what kind of a parent I want to be. Probably most likely a combination of the Mona Lisa and the Parking Ticket.

But I know I am not that parent. Yet.

I am the kind of parent that, after applying everything I can think of to keep the situation positive and proactive, ends up slamming a door, crying, yelling or wishing to beat my head against a wall. Or actually DO the beating my head against a wall.

Which brings me back to the morning routine.

Most mornings, Benjamin manages to get both his dad and me at least somewhat upset. Usually, one of us gets more upset than the other, but with both of us present we tend to balance things out amongst each other. If Javadad notices that I’m starting to revert to a certain tone, he steps in and rescues me from losing it.  If I see that he’s starting to tense up, I swoop in and distract the kid with something positive.

This is a lot of work at 6:30 in the morning. Prompted by a not yet 4 year old little turd pest troublemaker, nontheless.

And all because

“I don’t wanna get dressed!”

I tried everthing. His clothes are laid out at the foot of the bed. I sit with him to help or watch him, whichever he prefers. I try to move things along by suggesting what wonderful things the day will bring.

“Will your music teacher come to school today?”

“Do you want to go to Canadian Tire with me after I pick you up?”

“We have some pasta left over from last night. Would you like pasta for lunch?”

He doesn’t want to get dressed. Which means he doesn’t get undressed, a necessary prerequisite to get from wearing pyjamas to wearing day clothes.

I try helping him take his pjs off. He resists, starts whining. I ask him why he doesn’t want to get dressed. He can’t come up with a reason.

I try encouraging him. “Look, daddy is making you toast with honey, your favorite! You better hurry up and get dressed or your toast will get cold!”

Doesn’t work.

Finally, I try the reverse psychology. “Fine, when I’m ready to go, and you’re not dressed,  you’ll go to school in pjs”.

Heck, I even started packing his clothes in a bag once (when he wasn’t looking) and then made a big to-do about getting my own coat on. Except, it was a foolish plan since it was 20 below and there was no way I was interested in a physical battle to get his pj-ed body into a snowsuit, and then continue the episode at school for all the world to watch.

But I was desperate. And the clock was ticking. And he’s only at Montessori for 3 precious hours. So that plan went down the toilet.

Last Thursday morning was no different. And Thursday mornings are the worst, because that is the one day when I have to take Sonja with me to drop Ben off. The one day when Javadad has to be at work in the morning (he usually teaches in the afternoon and can stay home with Sonja while I drive Ben). It makes it double as challenging when I also have to feed and dress the tot amongst this chaos.

Oh, and somehow I have to try to get myself into a mostly presentable state. One one cup of coffee and no breakfast. Not fun.

So that morning, while Javadad was busy getting himself ready to go, I just lost it on the kid. I yelled at him to not come out of his room until he’s dressed, slammed the door behind me, and went into the shower.

I know. Very mature of me. And I’m acutely aware that I am neither the Mona Lisa, nor the Parking Ticket. Not to mention that now BOTH kids see how mommy deals with frustration, which will only result in them copying my behaviour next time they feel frustration.

Awesome.

So anyway. I’m in the shower. I’m seething. Every morning we go through this charade. I’m sick to death and at my wits’ end.

After a few minutes of hot water and cranberry-scented shampoo, I relax enough to put my brain into thinking-gear, and I arrive at a new solution to try.

Amazing what a few moments of silence can do for you. I highly recommend a shower next time you’re pissed off at your offspring.

I dry off, wrap my hair in a towel, and go to Ben’s room. He’s naked (finally), but freaking out and yelling “I want mommy! I want mommy!”.

So I sit down with him. And present my solution to him in a calm, matter-of-fact tone.

“Benjamin. Every morning, we do the same thing. We get dressed, we have breakfast, we go to school. Every morning, you make a fuss about getting dressed. Mommy and daddy are tired of this behaviour and it will stop. Tomorrow morning, when you get up, you will not leave your room except to go to the bathroom to pee. You will remain in your room until you are dressed. You will not come to mommy’s bed and have milk with Sonja. You will not go to the livingroom and have milk on the couch. You will stay in your room, and I will bring you your milk, and then you will get dressed. You cannot come out of your room until you are dressed.”

For Benjamin, having milk in my bed in the morning is one of his most treasured events. He loves snuggling in bed with me while Sonja is on one side of him with her milk, and I’m on the other having my coffee.

When I suggested that I take this priviledge away from him, he was first shocked, then sad, finally angry. Right away he started crying, whining about wanting to come to mommy’s bed.

“Benjamin, when you show me that you can get dressed without the fuss, I will invite you back into my bed. But tomorrow, you will remain in your room until you are dressed. Because today you managed to make everyone angry and frustrated, and you are still not dressed. When you show me that you can get dressed without the fuss, then the next day I will allow you back into my bed for the morning milk”.

Fast forward to Thursday night. As I lay his clothes out on the foot of his bed, and he gets his books ready, I remind him.

“Benjamin, remember tomorrow morning, you will remain in your room until you are dressed. You can go pee, but then you go back to your room and stay in here until you are dressed.”

And lo and behold, the following morning, I see him pass my bedroom on the way to the bathroom, and I hear him sigh and throw a very wistful glance in the direction of the fluffy pillows all propped up and inviting-looking, and then I hear him return to his room.

No fuss to be heard.

I get up, get coffee for me and milk for the kids, and hand Ben his milk to have in his room. Then, as usual, I head back to my bedroom with Sonja’s milk, my cup of coffee, and relax back into my pillows for a few minutes of javabliss.

And then he arrives. All smiles. And fully dressed.

No fuss. No whining. No crying.

Dressed.

I hope we can hang on to this moment, carry it forward until he considers himself too old to join mommy in bed, and simultaneously teach his little sister to follow suit.

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One thought on “The trouble with the morning routine

  1. JM you are an INSPIRATION. Without sounding condescending can I just say “Well done!”.

    I catch myself all the time being petulant when I am sleep deprived and at my wits end.

    Your ‘Ah-ha’ moment came in the shower.

    My ‘Ah-ha’ moment came last night at my daughter’s ‘Meet Your Teacher’ introduction night for Grade 1.

    DD’s new teacher is wonderful because she thinks like a 6 year old. I love her!

    She gave me such a wake-up call last night and she didn’t even realise it. It was just something simple that she said about the age group as a whole. (She has been teaching early childhood for 15 years.)

    Don’t you just love it when you can embrace your community and learn from them. Thanks so much for blogging. I know you find it therapuetic yourself but I too derive so much for your posts.

    I wonder if we’ll ever get to meet?

    KS 🙂

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