The experts say that children do best when they stick to a regular schedule. My wife an I certainly want our children to have every opportunity to excel, and to that end, we’ve developed our own morning routine. Here’s how things go on a typical school morning in the Morrow household:
7 a.m. — My wife, an elementary teacher, escapes — er, I mean, leaves for school before the kids have to get up. She’s usually already gone for her run, walked the dogs, done the crossword and checked her Facebook page. I’m just getting up, and see her long enough to wish her a wonderful day at school.
7:15 a.m. — I’ve got a cup of coffee. The dogs have gone back to bed, and I’m enjoying the peace and quiet. I know it won’t last.
7:40 a.m. — Deep breath. I start getting out breakfast ingredients. If the caffeine hasn’t quite hit the bloodstream, this may take a few minutes as I sometimes open a cupboard or the refrigerator and forget why. But I like cooking breakfast — the most important meal of the day, my mother always said. I think in a past life, I was a short-order cook. Favorite breakfasts include pancakes and bagel-and-egg sandwiches. I do a pretty good omelette, too. Even cereal gets some sort of fancy treatment — cut up fruit, or mixed with yogurt to make a parfait. Everybody loves parfait.
7:45 a.m. — Set the mood for waking up the kids. I like to play some cheerful, upbeat music to get the kids going in the morning. Marky Mark is one of my favorites — you just gotta love those “Good Vibrations.” We’ve got the stereo connected to our home wireless network, so it’s as easy as queuing up the “Get Moving” playlist. I might rename it the “Get Your Rear Ends Out of Bed Before Dad Flips Out” playlist, but I’m an optimist.
7:50 a.m. — Begin waking up kids. I start with a gentle shake on the shoulder to rouse them from their slumbers, maybe a light tickle on the back of their neck. With Grace, age 8, I have to watch for flying elbows. With Billy, 10, I sometimes need to pry the blankets from his tightly-clenced fists to find his shoulder. Other times, his blankets are all over the floor, which makes it easy.
7:55 a.m. — Still lovin’ those good vibrations, but the kids haven’t moved yet. I enlist the help of our big black Lab, Max, to get the kids going. Jumping up on the kids’ beds and licking their faces is one of the few things I’ve been able to train him to do ...
8 a.m. — Breakfast is in the skillet or on the griddle, but the kids are still in bed. Time to raise the alert level. Blankets may be forcibly removed from snoozing kids, and threats are made to switch from our “Get Moving” playlist to the “Torture the Kids” playlist. Bright lights are switched on in bedrooms.
8:10 a.m. — I have eaten my breakfast, but the other two plates are getting cold. Time for drastic measures — “Torture the Kids” it is. The “Torture” playlist includes Barry Manilow and Justin Bieber. (Have you noticed, they both write songs that make the young girls cry?) I sing along, very loud and not very well (my apologies to Manilow and Bieber fans everywhere). I’m pretty sure I’m breaking the Geneva Conventions, but the kids need to be up and moving so they can have a positive start to their day, darn it.
8:15 a.m. — Billy finally arrives at the table — getting dressed for him only involves throwing on whatever shirt-and-pants combination happens to be on top in his drawer. He sneaks over to the laptop to change the playlist — usually it’s Green Day or Weird Al Yankovic, or as has been the case lately, Weird Al’s parody of Green Day, and grumps until he finds the comics page.
8:22 a.m. — Grace finally wanders to the table, changing the song to one of her favorites on the way. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been at the top of her list, along with Taylor Swift, and, much to my dismay, “Copacabana (At the Copa),” which makes me miss the good old days of Hannah Montana.
8:25-8:30 a.m. — I strongly suggest that certain kids need to hurry up and eat before I flip out. I announce that I will be picking the music for the rest of the morning as they can’t seem to agree on it, and it’s becoming a distraction. Meanwhile, the kids are doing their best to antagonize each other, which involves talking over each other, arguing over who’s going to have a better day according to the horoscope and trying to pick songs they know the other doesn’t like while I’m not looking.
8:32 a.m. — I announce that I am finally flipping out, and that kids need to go comb their teeth, brush their hair and put on socks. For some reason, my kids don’t put on socks right away. In a way it makes sense, because en route to the table they cross the slobber zone by the dogs’ water bowl, but they do own slippers for just that reason.
8:40 a.m. — I lose it. One kid is still at the table, and the other has managed to find something else to do other than the assigned tasks. The music is turned off. The kids start getting the countdown. They scramble for the bathrooms as they know I count fast. This is also the time they usually tell me all the things they’re supposed to bring to school today that they haven’t even gotten out yet.
8:42 a.m. — Kids should be getting their hats, gloves and coats on. It sounds odd to have it the minute like this, but 8:40 is a couple minutes early, and 8:45 is a few minutes late. We need to stick to the routine, right? There is some scrambling around the house looking for dry gloves as the ones from yesterday were shoved in the backpack and are still soaking wet. I count to 10 for myself — sometimes 20 — and take a deep cleansing breath. I’m not sure where all those good vibrations went. At this point in the morning, I just can’t smile.
8:52 a.m. — The kids are out the door, about five minutes later than scheduled. Through a clenched jaw I wish them a wonderful day at school. They are happily oblivious to my frustration. I tell Billy he needs to wait for his sister, and I tell Grace she needs to hurry up. There is slumping of shoulders and dragging of feet, but they are out the door.
8:55 a.m. — I mutter to myself while doing up the breakfast dishes. I wipe down the table, knowing full well that no matter how much I scrub, my wife will wonder what on earth she’s sticking to when she sits down for dinner tonight.
9 a.m. — I put on some soft, soothing music, and sit down to finish my cup of coffee. It’s cold, so I figure I’ll just get some at work and dump what’s left. I seriously contemplate downloading the entire Barry Manilow catalogue, just to have it on hand in case it’s needed tomorrow. To borrow a phrase from the crooner himself, it “Looks Like We Made It” through another morning.
Clarion Editor Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.