How to make kids get ready for school
IF I'd said "brush your teeth" one more time, I may have gone mad.
Bonkers. Just like those cartoon characters whose heads spin so fast they shoot right off. That was quite literally me every morning, after asking my almost seven-year-old to get ready for school.
My normally gorgeous, considerate, school-loving child is great everywhere else, but unfortunately for me, not so much in the morning.
If I said "put on your shoes, brush your hair and pack your bag" 40,000 times before 8am I would not be exaggerating. Well, not by much.
And that is despite starting every morning with the best of intentions.
Today is the day I will not yell.
Today is the day she will be delightful, not defiant.
Today is the day she will listen and be proactive.
Today is the day we will get ready like a harmonious fairytale, all butterflies and magical rainbows, humming in synch to the tune of a Disney classic.
Today is the day everything will change.
But every day was the same.
Cue anger. A screaming match. Frustration. Tears. Cries of 'OK, OK' - but it's not OK because saying OK means nothing when you don't actually do anything after that. We wasted many a precious getting-ready minute to dissect what was wrong with the situation and how next time, we could do better - and we were only one sock in.
It was a nightmare. This was my nightmare.
So tell me - what do you do when you don't know what else to do?
You whinge to a girlfriend.
"I'm at my wit's end," I wailed one day over a much-needed coffee after drop-off.
"Oh me too," my beautiful friend replied reassuringly.
"That was us exactly. Every day, without fail. Yep. Gosh, it's the PITS."
I felt better already, knowing that I wasn't alone in the dearly disobedient children department. But even better than kind words, she had a solution.
It sounds simple. So simple that it's unassumingly brilliant. So brilliant that it's monumentally life changing.
So, stay with me. Here it is.
A To-Do List.
I know. Genius, right?
Now, it may not sound as earth shattering as it is, but I implore you to give it a go because in my experience, and hers, it works.
That very afternoon, my daughter and I wrote it together, detailing the simplest of morning tasks. Think make bed, have breakfast, brush teeth, brush hair, that kind of thing. With little notes like "have you got your hat? Readers? Homework? Lunch? Drink bottle?" added in the mix.
Then we put a little box next to each task, and found a clipboard and a pen that were all hers to care for.
She woke up excited. I woke up smiling.
"Mummy, I have to have breakfast, that's first on my list," she said at precisely 6.18am.
Make bed, clean bedroom. Tick, tick.
Brush hair, brush teeth, pack bag. Tick, tick, tick.
It was the quickest we have ever gotten ready for school. Ever. And I didn't yell. Not even once.
It was like someone had sprinkled magical butterflies all around us, and I was no longer the wicked witch of the west. I was Mum again. And it felt great.
I know that empowering a young person - giving them responsibility instead of battling them to do as they're told - makes sense. Of course it does. But when you're in the trenches, stuck on that monotonous mouse wheel that is parenting, when you've got three kids to wrangle, work to be done, a kitchen to clean and a time crunch to get organised and out the door before the bell - well the "lead by example" way can get lost in the wash.
It's easy to get frustrated and angry and lose your cool. That doesn't make it right - and we all know it doesn't work either - but that is the unfortunate reality for parents every day of the week.
Sometimes you have to take a step back, shake it off and start again.
What's that old saying, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result?
I'm hoping this is my change that will make a change in her. In us. That we can work together as a team instead of learning behaviour that is sure to drive us apart.
That this is the start of a beautiful morning routine, and a beautiful friendship.