My kids don’t go back to school until after Labor Day, but lots of districts are starting next week or the week after. Getting into a new routine can always be challenging, but I certainly don’t think mornings have to be this crazed circus. In the September issue of Parents, I shared several tips for making it out the door on time. Among them:
Designate a launch pad. We have a mudroom, and it is the best thing ever. Having one spot where backpacks, shoes, and jackets all go can save massive time and frustration. When kids come in the door, that is where stuff goes, and barring any toddler shenanigans, that is where the stuff stays until it is needed again. The shoes and coats don’t need to be lined up Pinterest-perfect. If you want to pin a photo of your mudroom that is your business, but the point is not appearances. The point is that the stuff is there. (Bonus: parents can keep keys, sunglasses, cell phone chargers, etc., nearby too).
Get better at lunch. Let the kids buy it! School lunches are, on average, lower in calories and sugar, and higher in fiber and protein, than home-packed lunches. If the kids can’t buy lunch for some reason, let them make it themselves. If they can’t, because they’re 3 years old and go to a daycare without a cafeteria, then yep, you’re on the hook for this one. But make it simple with lots of grab-and-go individual sized stuff, and cut up fruit for the week (or at least through to Wednesday) while you’re making dinner on Sunday night.
Don’t fight fashion battles. As soon as the kids can dress themselves, let them. Your sense of style isn’t theirs. If the kid comes down in shorts and it’s 10 degrees out you can say something but otherwise, let it go.
Get shoes on 8 minutes ahead of time. OK, this sounds funny in the magazine because it is so specific. But this year our bus came at 8:40, and I found that 8:32 was the perfect time to get the boys down to the mudroom for shoes and coats. If they were fast, we’d be outside by 8:35. If they were slow, it might be 8:37, but we were still OK.
Look at the calendar. I put any important school events and after school activities on my calendar so I know what’s coming up, and if kids need notes to stay for after school activities. I do planning on Friday afternoons, and then every evening look at what is happening the next day. Eventually the kids will need to be on top of this themselves, but given that they still require chauffeurs, I need to be somewhat involved.
Reframe mornings. So much of the back-to-school literature is about how this time is so crazy, and mornings are such a mess and so forth. But, as I told Parents, “Morning can be a good time to enjoy one another’s company…Family dinner might not happen if life after school or work is hectic, but family breakfast could happen. That’s quality time together.” A positive mindset helps the whole day.