Unbelievable, but school is already well underway. And that means that the early-morning scramble is underway too.
I wrote this list a while back, but I realized this morning that I needed to go over it again and remind myself of what I need to do keep things running smoothly. I want a calm, unrushed, cheerful morning — not one with lots of whining, yelling, and searching for misplaced items. (And that’s just me!)
I had a major insight about the challenge of keeping our school-day mornings moving along: I was focused on chivvying my children along. Wrong! I needed to worry about ME.
When I work on my own habits, mornings are much easier. Here are some tips I try to follow to keep the mornings calm:
1. Get enough sleep myself. I’m good at putting my kids to sleep at a decent hour, and I need to be just as disciplined with myself. It can be tempting to stay up late, to enjoy the peace and quiet, but 6:00 a.m. comes fast, and being overtired makes the morning much tougher.
2. Sing. As goofy as it sounds, I try to sing in the morning. It’s hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone—particularly in my case, because I’m tone deaf, and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.
3. Say “no” only when it really matters. Wear a bright red shirt with bright orange pants and bright green shoes? Sure. As Samuel Johnson said, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.”
4. Get organized the night before. It’s so hard to take the trouble to wrangle all the stuff together the night before, but it really pays off. Those last-minute dashes for homework sheets or empty paper-towel rolls are hard to bear with equanimity. I also try to observe the evening tidy-up, so I don’t feel like I should rush around tidying up the apartment.
5. Have a precise routine. This sounds counter-intuitive, and I’m not sure it would work for everyone, but in our house, we have a NASA-like countdown to get to school. At 7:00 a.m., we all go down to breakfast. At 7:20, time to get dressed. 7:40, time to leave for the walk to school. Knowing these exact times keeps my daughters moving and stops them from repeating, “Just a minute, just a minute.”
6. Caffeine. If you need your caffeine, make sure you can get your caffeine! I usually manage to drink several huge mugs of coffee before we leave the house.
7. Jump! This is my new favorite resolution. Yes, just jump up and down a few times. It will make you feel more energetic, lighthearted, and silly — a great tone to start the day.
A friend of mine works full-time and has two young sons. She told me, “For a long time, our mornings were awful — lots of crabbiness and procrastination, me yelling at everyone to hurry up. Then it hit me: I don’t get to spend that much time with my kids during the week, and a big part of that time is during the morning. I made changes so that it became good family time.”
For her, the secret was to get up earlier. She hated to lose thirty minutes of sleep, but that extra half hour made the difference between a relaxed, cheerful morning and a rushed, difficult morning.
It’s worth the effort to try to get mornings running smoothly, because the morning sets the tone for the whole day – for everyone.
The days are long, but the years are short.
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.