Got Teenagers? Tips for an Easier Morning Routine

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When the Foodie children were younger, our mornings were easy enough to navigate—or, as easy as mornings ever are. For several years, both kids went to the same day care center; then to the same elementary school. They got up at the same time, got dressed at the same time, ate at the same time. We rushed to get out the door some mornings, but we were, at least, rushing on the same schedule.

And then, The Girl went to middle school.

When The Girl started sixth grade, her school day started almost an hour later than her brother’s. Suddenly, it made no sense for both kids to get up at the same time—especially since The Girl had started to guard her sleeping time in the way teenagers often do, resisting the call to get out of bed and start preparing for the day, sometimes four or five times. It was clear our schedule had to adapt to the changing dynamics of our family.

Cherry Almond Bread

Cherry Almond Bread is a hit with the Foodie Children

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One thing I knew for sure: I didn’t want our mornings to resemble those I remembered from my own teenage years. I grew up with a father who had retired from military service, in a family where flexibility was rare and being on time was valued above all things. Loosely translated, this meant “ten minutes early.” I was always the first kid at the bus stop, waiting in the cold for everyone else to show up, often on the verge of frustrated tears. From the moment I was out of bed, I was rushing—even when I was on schedule. If I was ready to leave the house ten minutes before I actually needed to, my mother called that morning a success.

How to avoid that kind of manic morning pace in the Foodie household? The trick, I thought, was to figure out a way to respect each of our schedules and preferred ways of getting through the morning, while getting everybody where they need to be on time. No small job, to be sure. But I realized I had to learn to think of our mornings as four separate routines working together for the benefit of each family member—not as a single, well-oiled machine.

After many years of trial and error, here’s our current routine:

I’m a clock-watcher. (What can I say? My mother won.) I get up when the alarm goes off at 6:20. I feed the cats and make the coffee. I check Facebook and watch the morning news while the coffee brews. I drink a cup before I head off to wake the Foodie children, at precisely 6:55. Then I get dressed and put on make-up, eat breakfast, pack my lunch, brush my teeth. I touch base with the Foodie children, to double-check their schedules and find out who needs a ride home from school. I’m out the door and on my way to work by 7:40.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Breakfast is a morning routine requirement

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At the opposite end of the spectrum, The Girl will stay in bed as long as possible—long after her alarm goes off and even, yes, after I’ve come in to wake her at 6:55. Trying to prevent this by cajoling, threatening, tempting or bribing simply serves no purpose. It used to drive me crazy that The Girl would roll out of bed twenty minutes before we needed to leave the house, but now I concentrate on the fact that she has never once been late for school (or work). She’s never made anyone wait for her, either. She gets excellent grades, excellent enough to earn a full academic scholarship at her first-choice college, and she’s been promoted to a management position at her weekend job. These are the really important things about her. If it bothers me that she looks like she’s just rolled out of bed when she leaves the house (because, face it, she has), that is

my problem to deal with. No one else seems to care.

When The Girl leaves the house to meet her carpool, yogurt smoothie in hand, she’s doing exactly what she’s supposed to do, just not the way I would do it.

The Boy couldn’t be more different from his sister. Like me, he’s a clock-watcher. Unlike me, he’s a little more relaxed about the clock. He rarely gets up right when I call him at 6:55, but by the time The Hubs makes a second call, around 7:10, The Boy is usually ready to go. (If he’s not, I swing by his bedroom on my way to get my breakfast and remind him of the time. This always does the trick.) He takes his ADHD meds, eats some breakfast, watches a bit of the Today show. When 7:40 rolls around, he heads to his bedroom to dress for the day. After that, because he’s still waiting for his meds to kick in, some combination of the following takes place: he brushes his teeth, plays with the cats, combs his hair, notices the cat hair on his shirt, uses the lint roller, gets the dog to do her tricks, gives her a treat, opens the blinds, takes out the trash or the recycling. Mo matter what else is going on, at precisely 8:05, The Boy reminds his father that it’s time to hit the road.

Which is not to suggest that The Hubs is always ready to leave the house at 8:05. Oh, no. Of the four Foodies, The Hubs is by far the least conscious of the clock. The early years of our marriage featured many heated discussions about the virtues of being on time (read: ten minutes early) vs. the merits of not wasting time on waiting for other people to show up when you could, instead, have spent that time at home, getting ready. Over the 24 years we’ve been together, though, we’ve negotiated a peace treaty. It goes something like this: if you’re the only one who will be late, be as late as you want. If you’re going to make someone else late, you need to be on time. And, to The Hubs’ credit, The Boy has never once been late for school. He’s walked through the door of his first class exactly as the final bell is ringing, but he’s never been marked tardy.

When I was an exhausted parent of toddlers, a friend with teenage sons once told me “I know this is hard to believe now, but the day will come when your biggest challenge is getting your children out of bed.” I dreamed of that day. Now that it’s arrived, I try to face that challenge while keeping in mind what’s really important: starting the day on a peaceful note and looking forward to coming home again in the evening, to a home where each person is respected and loved.

This post is part of BlogHer's Rush Hour Tips editorial series, made possible by Got Milk?

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