By Ray Lucas
I HAVE READ scientific studies showing that some of the most stressful events in a person’s life include moving to a new home, a relationship break up and starting a new job to name a few. These stress scientists obviously never had multiple children all getting ready for school in the mornings, as I am certain this recurring experience would have easily broken in to the top 10 list.
The past few weeks have transformed our relatively calm summer mornings ritual into the chaotic back-to-school morning countdown all-too-familiar to parents throughout Southern Indiana. Each morning we race the clock to get everyone up, out the door and to school on time.
With four children ranging from high school to preschool, here’s a glimpse into what any given school morning might look like in my home: It should be noted that the following account is that of a good morning – where we have experienced no melt downs, no unfinished homework assignments, and no one oversleeping. Timer, set the clock please…
My alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m. I awake and stumble to the kitchen for coffee followed a few minutes later by my wife. We begin the curiously difficult task of waking each of our four children before starting our showers.
“Can I have 5 more minutes?” asks the grade school son from the top bunk.
“Me too?” follows the preschool son from the bottom bunk.
“No.” we respond in unison.
1 hour and 15 minutes left on the clock: Dad yelling upstairs to teenage daughter: “Are you up yet?”
An unconvincing and sleepy, “Yeah,” floats down the stairs. I’m pretty sure she’s still in bed but am unwilling to climb the stairs to confirm my hunch.
Mom to grade-school son: “Put on the uniform I laid out on your bed. That one from yesterday is dirty.”
“But I already have it on. It’s not too dirty,” he protests.
Mom gives him a look that convinces him otherwise.
Preschool son to dad: “Hold me daddy,” as he lays in bed still. 1:00 hour on the clock: I start looking for a tie to match my pant sand my wife is digging through earring options. Conversation as we finish dressing typically drifts to, “What time do you get off today?” “Can you drop Eli off at rehearsal?” “Do you want to grill chicken for dinner?”
“Have you seen my tennis shoes?” from teenage son on the other side of the house. “Mom what do we have for breakfast?” from grade school son in kitchen.
“Are you awake yet, Olivia?” I yell again upstairs to teenage daughter.
“Yes!!!” she yells down. I’m pretty sure she is up and moving at this point.
“Your shirt is on inside out,” Mom to grade-school son. He frowns.
“Can I watch Paw Patrol?” asks preschooler now finally waking up.
“No, we need to get you dressed buddy.” I reply.
“Dad!!! Tell him to get out of the bathroom!” yells teenage daughter waiting on teenage son to vacate.
“I’m putting in my contacts!” teen son responds.
“Hurry up please! I’m supposed to be at school early for a SADD meeting,” pleads teen daughter who is his ride to school.
“I am hurrying. I was up before you were anyway,” replies teen son leaving the bathroom and who is in fact always up before teenage daughter.
0:45 minutes on the clock: Dad to preschool son, “Put your shirt on.”
Preschool son, “But I want to wear my Paw Patrol shirt.”
I reason, “You wore that shirt yesterday – it’s in the hamper.”
Preschooler ups the ante. “But I told Maxwell I would wear my Paw Patrol shirt.” His bottom lip starts to quiver and tears start forming at the thought of wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt today and disappointing his buddy.
Mom intervenes. “Just let him wear the other Paw Patrol shirt, it’s clean.”
Confused, because I know this is a long-sleeve shirt and he has shorts on, I counter, “But it’s a long sleeve t-shirt?”
Mom as the voice of reason, “Do you think he really cares?”
Preschool son is all smiles as he puts on long sleeve Paw Patrol shirt.
0:30 minutes on the clock: “Who ate my chocolate glazed donut?” asks distraught teenage daughter, referring to the donut she brought home from bakery she works at after school. Deadly silence from all. Teenage daughter is on the verge of breakdown.
“Can I have these cookies for breakfast?” asks grade-school son.
“No.” parents respond in unison.
Preschool son looks into cabinet at the same breakfast options we have every day asking, “What do we have?”
“Have you seen my backpack?” asks teenage son going from room to room in a not-to-unusual morning panic.
“No” parents respond in unison.
“I think I want a banana instead,” says fickle preschooler to dad who is pouring Lucky Charms into a bowl. Dad frowns at indecision.
0:15 minutes on the clock: Dad to younger boys: “Come on! It’s time to leave!”
Teenage sister to teenage brother: “I’m leaving!” Of course she’s bluffing, as she hasn’t even picked up her backpack or school books.
“Have you brushed your teeth yet?” asks mom of grade school son. “Yes.” he bluffs. “So if I check your brush it will be wet from use?” says mom, calling his bluff.
“Come on boys, we really have to go!” repeats dad, for the thousandth time in his parenting career.
0:13 minutes on the clock: “I’m leaving!” shouts dad and sister to their respective passengers from outside the front door.
Teenage son finds backpack in the nick of time. Grade school son brushes teeth in the nick of time. Preschool son finishes banana in the nick of time. Wife smiling with mug of fresh coffee from the Keurig, also in the nick of time.
All of them walking towards the door respond nearly in unison, “We’re coming!”
0:00 on the clock- The morning drive concludes as children arrive at school and parents arrive at work…just in the nick of time.
Stress scientists may ask, “How do you stay calm each morning in the midst of such pressure?” For me, it was the calming effect of the 6:15 a.m. coffee I made to go with the teenage daughter’s donut I ate before anyone was up. If you see my daughter pulling in late to school, remind her that it’s the early bird that gets the chocolate glazed donut.”