Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Rise and Fall of the School Routine. Is it summer yet?

R is an awesome kid.  She loves her sisters (and us!).  She loves to read.  She loves school.  But she is not a morning person (like both her parents), and has a hard time falling asleep at night (despite a screen-free, sugar –free, relaxed bedtime routine).  R has always needed a plan.  From as young as two, we would lie in bed and determine what our plan for the day was going to be.  So it’s somewhat surprising to me that she has become such a layabout in the mornings and completely scatterbrained after school.

Two weeks before school started in August, we started waking up, getting dressed, having breakfast and walking to/from school.  One week before school we started doing the same thing, but at a school-appropriate time.  It was a slow build to get into a good routine where no one was crying from hunger, frustration or fatigue at the end of the day but we did it.  Christmas break was a small blip.  Baby C’s birth another one, and March break a bigger blip.  But we always managed to rebound.  Until now.

Disaster struck once it started to stay full light well past 8pm.  We hung black curtains in their room.  We closed the door to prevent the light from the hallway coming in.   L still had boundless energy and was keeping her big sister awake so we tried separate  bedtimes, but that lead to tears.  So we started taking walks after dinner; that backfired as it lead to a second wind for both of them and a longer more drawn out getting for bed routine with mandatory showers as opposed to baths after school.  We are sticking strong to an 8pm bedtime but often R is awake until almost 9pm.  (Later if we allow some extra reading time for her because our sympathy as night owls kicks in.)  With the later and later falling asleep time, comes the harder to wake up R.  And when I do get her awake, she is grumpy. 

Lately, the routine has started to crumble:  Alarm goes off, I call into R’s room.  I gently pull sheet off her, I cajole and then firmly peel her out of bed.  She wanders around like she is suffering from a slight hangover and comes to me with a barrette but no comb, with hairspray but no pony-o.  This goes one for a while.   While I ensure the two other girls are ready to go downstairs, she is supposed to finish her upstairs routine.  But when I check in on her silently, she is usually sitting half dressed on her bedroom floor reading a book.  Am I the only parent on the planet that has to tell her kid to stop reading?  Probably.  I proceed with my morning and eventually R makes an appearance in the kitchen, sometimes with a prompt.  She then notices that she hasn’t packed her snacks and is very sweet, sincere, and apologetic about it and gets started on that, taking up to ten minutes to actually get a yogurt from the fridge into her lunch bag.  I just don’t have it in me to send her to school without a snack because she forgot or to let her go with messy hair.  But, at this point we’ve moved to “Fine, be late, lollygag if you must but you are still walking to school not driving.” 

I'm not going to stress out about it, or stress her out about it.  I grew up in a household where more often than not you went to school having cried.  I'm talking daily.  And while we all know that my mother thinks I'm the child from hell, I have very distinct memories of her yelling at my youngest sister every morning before school too. So it wasn't just me.  And while I've been know to raise my voice on more than one occasion, I generally keep things quiet and efficient in the morning with room or flexibility because I don't ever want to send my daughter to school all wound up from a stressful morning. 

Some of the ways we do this is that after many chats, Mark and I have a very distinct set of chores we need to get done by 6am.  Some of it may seem like catering to our girls i.e., setting the table for breakfast, but they are only just 3 and 6.  Also, if we don't get around to it, they will do it and will just as easily empty the dishwasher.  Having it done already, just makes things go smoother. I'm not making excuses for their age - they both have a lot of responsibility every morning and evening.  Things they need to do to get themselves ready and to help me out not the least of which is getting themselves ready, and getting their own cereal.  I also wake up much earlier than I would like in order to be dressed, and have caffeine in my system before the two older girls wake up.  But these are the things that need to happen to keep things as low stress for my girls as I can.  I really, really, really, don't want any of us to get upset in the morning and while I can't control every variable, and there are mornings when I lose my temper, or one of them loses theirs, or things just fall apart, the good mornings, the mornings where we listen to music, do "knee ups" while the eggs are cooking, R makes me breakfast, L runs around dancing, and baby C sits in her chair laughing far outweigh the hard ones.  

Three more weeks of school until we can take a break from the routine.  But come mid-August, I need a new plan on how to convince my child that she needs to get all her stuff done before she picks up a book to read or stops to play with her sisters from September all the way to the end of June.  I’ll ask for advice in the summer but for now, I want to know:  Do your kids fall off the school routine bandwagon?  Were they never on it?  Do they stick to for the duration?

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