Starting & Finishing

Today, on the longest day of the year, I need to talk about morning & evening routines.

Before you rev yourself up with all the “it’s all about consistency” ideas – I KNOW IT IS. But literally the only consistent feedback I’ve gotten from people attempting to manage me in different capacities over the course of my life is that I am consistently inconsistent. I work in waves. I’ll check every box one week, then the next I hardly know where I am, much less where I’m going later. The earth works in seasons, kids roll through phases, the universe expands & contracts, and wake-up & bedtime are always going to fudge around. So, respectfully, consistency of routine is a nice pie in the sky, but welcome to my actual life.

Next, I will tell you that I *hated* mornings & bedtimes growing up. So. Much. Anxiety. Yelling. Scrambling. Crying. Rushing. Arguing. Utter chaos is what I remember. We were always late & never enough in the morning. And all I remember about bedtimes is having “lights out!” hollered a bunch and/or turning up the piano music cassette tape on my boom box speakers loud enough to drown out whatever else was happening in the house. I do not have any memory of protesting bedtime, although I’m sure I did at some point. I protested wake-up all. the. time.

All that to say: lots of not-so-fantastic childhood memories occurred during mornings & evenings for me, so obviously I would love to not repeat those experiences for my children or myself. I do not want to be a “hurry up!! We are LATE” parent. I do not want to be a “I have asked you THREE TIMES to go brush your teeth, what are you DOING?!” parent.

But lately y’all… ugh.

The girls are 5 and 7 and in the evenings, they can tell when I’m way tired & ready to check out. And they know if their Daddy’s going to be late coming home it’s two vs one. And it’s like they check in with each other and say “let’s see if we can break her” in a hushed whisper to each other before choosing to pile on top of each other on the couch screaming in their pretend language (yes OF COURSE they have a pretend language) and completely ignoring my insistence – in my best “calm mommy” voice – that “It’s not playtime, it’s get-ready-for-bed time.” Then we move on to the “okay I’m going to count to three and then I’m going to help you stop playing & guide you to your room.”

Counting will usually get the younger up & moving toward bed, but my older now wants to test how exactly I’m going to “help” her stop playing. Which is basically me taking away any toy she grabs for and sometimes even resulting in my having to literally pick her up & carry her out of the living room to her bedroom (love my small house in those moments #backpain).

After they’ve finally given up on the “wonder if she’ll really make us brush our teeth” test (the answer is always yes I really will, even if I have to brush them for you, which I know does not make me a beacon of positive parenting, but I have found the natural consequence of “no treats the next day” practically impossible to enforce unless I have total control of the next day, which I rarely do), next is the “I wanna read a story” cries.

I should say here that I absolutely love to read to my kids. On a smooth bedtime routine night – fantastic: stories abound, and I will do all the silly voices. However, on a night where they’ve dragged the whole situation out into a painful game of power and boundary-pushing tug-of-war? By the time we get here it is likely damn near 9:00p. Which on a weekend, whatever, but on a weeknight? We need sleepy-sleepy ASAP.

Throughout the entire ordeal of getting from dinner to bed, I’ve usually said things like “I can’t turn back the clock, if you drag this out, you’ll miss story time because it will be too late” so if we bump up against a “buuutttt booooooks” whine it is not because they did not have fair warning that the clock was tick-ticking away while they fought over who should brush their teeth first (my suggestion that they can, in fact, brush their teeth at the same time & share the sink is always met with a very loud “NO!!”).

Ultimately, the compromise to this has become that if they lose their stories, they still get a lullaby. So I sing them “Twinkle, twinkle” and or “Hush little baby” at least three or four nights a week. I’ve tried singing other things, but these are the only two songs currently deemed acceptable by them.

Which is not terrible. And at least all the lights are FINALLY out.

A late night of course leads to a late morning. Mornings are less about them and more about me. I hate mornings. Well, I don’t hate all mornings, I hate mornings that start with an alarm clock and immediate & unavoidable tasks or looming doom. So I tend to stay in bed until the last possible second dreading the inevitable need to be “on” and get my children up and out.

The higher stakes of mornings is that while late nights have the delayed private consequences of getting less sleep than is ideal, mornings can have immediate & public consequences like having to sign your kid in late to school or camp.

But this promise of public shame does not stop me from running late. Truth be told, I’ve basically given up on mornings. Breakfast is too important, and beginning a day with a big power struggle is terrible, so I drink a glass of water, I try to to pause and take deep, calming breaths, I resign myself to either waiting for coffee until after drop-off or drinking it while driving. One morning I was signing in Maggie late to preschool, per usual, and another mom bounded into the office & breathlessly said “oh good, I’m not the only late one,” and because I am an awkward turtle with no filter I replied calmly, “oh I’m on the late sign in most mornings, at this point I’ve accepted it as part of my personality.” She just stared at me in response. Fair enough.

Public school poses a problem however because of this thing called truancy. Yes, of course I’ve already received a truancy warning letter: 14 tardies. They did not, however, make me come in & have a meeting about it. Maybe because I’m exceedingly honest on the tardy sign in sheet & I write things like “mommy wasn’t going to make it without brewing coffee” and “little sister threw a tantrum” and “her socks didn’t feel right in her shoes so we had to try on three more pairs” and “she said her dream was too good to get out of bed.”

So I’m that mom.

I tell myself slightly later than ideal nights & mornings are better than yelling and shaming and rigidity, and so I try to quell the anxiety monster that wants to make “on time” so important. But there are good days & bad days. I remind myself I *can* do better, but I’m trying to be gentle on myself when I don’t. Incremental improvements are possible.

Also here’s to hoping my kids’ understanding of how time works improves as they get older.


One thought on “Starting & Finishing

  1. MC , your descriptions are so true and right on. Thank you for reminding me of the realities!
    I love you and always will.
    Also, they will grow up.


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