Morning Routine Sanity-Saving Checklist

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People often ask me how I manage to get all these kids up, dressed, and out the door every morning.

Hahahaha, that's a lie. People rarely ask me that, possibly because you'll note the above sentence lacks the phrases "cheerfully," "with their teeth brushed," or "without large clumps of hair sticking up in every direction."

Truly, we did have issues there for a while. It seemed like every morning we were running out the door ten minutes late no matter how early we got up, how much we hurried, or how many times I screamed words of encouragement at the top of my lungs with a vein popping out of my forehead.

The biggest morning delay (after the usual crowbar extraction from bed) was always breakfast. Even simplest options ("Bagels or English muffins? Umm, no, I don't remember waffles being one of the choices...") sent the kids into fits of disagreement. And the last thing I have time for, besides breaking up a breakfast brawl at 7 am, is making several breakfasts for multiple picky eaters, considering I barely have time to make one.

Our next biggest problem was that people (I'm not naming names, but let's just say they're all shorter than me) would show up at the door, "ready to go," following some major lapses in their morning routine.

No, honey, you're not leaving for school if your breath could wilt the lettuce on the sandwich in your lunchbox. Why're you putting shoes on when you've clearly forgotten your socks? And no, for the 800th time, your cat-ear headband from two Halloweens ago doesn't fall within school dress code guidelines.

Getting kids out the door in the morning

Here's the checklist I pretty much have to force my children to go by if I want any hope of getting out the door with them, on time, at least 90% ready for their day:

  • Get dressed (try to remember underwear this time)
  • Yes, it has to be clean underwear
  • Brush your teeth - and I'm your mother, so if you just stand there with the water running I'LL KNOW
  • Breakfast
  • Is your homework finished? Sigh. Finish your homework.
  • Get your backpack
  • Go back and get your homework - put it in your backpack
  • Collect any of the following that apply: overdue library books, dioramas, tri-fold poster boards, gym shoes, snow pants that you'll be required to wear at recess if it falls below 40 degrees even if it's June, the oversize t-shirt your art teacher keeps asking you to bring so you'll stop staining your clothes with "washable" paint, flutophones, and all 12 zillion box tops we've collected since last week thanks to the baby's fruit snack addiction
  • It's time to go!
  • Where's your jacket? You left it at school? Again???
  • Shoes! Come on! What do you mean you can only find one?
  • Where is your backpack???
  • DON'T MAKE ME GET THE CATTLE PROD!

Morning routine checklist

At this point we get in the car and drive for approximately five minutes, until someone announces they forgot their homework (naturally) or that they were in charge of bringing the class snack today.

As you can tell, there's really only one part of the morning that doesn't send any of us into fits of hysterics these days, and that's breakfast. Why? Because I gave up on the notion that I'd ever be organized enough to serve a hot morning meal of bacon, eggs, toast, pancakes, and pheasant under glass - or even just the pheasant. Or, on most days, even just English muffins.

I've finally embraced cereal as our breakfast of choice. And no, it does not make me lazy - or if it does, I guess I'll have to be content with the hope that my kids being deprived of weekday waffles will build character. Cereal is simple. It's fast. It keeps me sane. The kids still get variety, and they can disagree on which kind they want without breakfast taking any longer to prepare.

In addition to getting us out the door on time, eating cereal has freed up all sorts of extra time for them to argue about who's chewing with their mouth open, who got to read the back of which box already, and who's holding their spoon wrong. Thank goodness. I was starting to worry they wouldn't have time for arguing.

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

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