It’s really easy to think that however things are is just the way they’re going to be. As the kids grow up and we all have conflicting schedules, stressful mornings and dinners out of brown bags in the car started to seem like our new normal.
This year has been…let’s just say stressful. In addition to lots of other life stuff, both kids started middle school, which means the alarm suddenly goes off an hour earlier than we’re all used to. Mornings in particular were unpleasant, rushed, and grumpy—it really sucks to send your kids off to school when your last interaction was snapping at them over something.
Recently we made a relatively simple change in our routine and it’s made a big difference. I’m not saying this exact thing will work for you, but it’s worth examining some of the times that are rough in your house and seeing if you can do something to make them different.
We’re now on week 3 of having breakfast together every morning. Clark takes lead on cooking something—with the kids’ help, we plan out the week’s menu on Sunday so we’re sure of what we’re having and we check to see that we have the ingredients. The kids get up earlier because they have a meal to look forward to—they even check the menu the night before.
I’m not going to say that breakfast has worked miracles, because there’s still some stress and some rushing, but this morning instead of yelling being the last thing that happened, it was belly laughs over waffles. A zombie kid came awake and started interacting with us. Moods that would have only grown and worsened were instead reversed.
Due to schedules, we rarely get to eat dinner at the same time, and when we do it’s usually squeezed between homework and lessons or other responsibilities. I don’t know why it took us so long to realize we could have breakfast together instead. What’s important is having some time as a family, no matter when it happens. For us, first thing in the morning works a lot better than evenings.
The hardest part has been going to bed earlier (although that was something we needed to do anyway). And, occasionally, having breakfast together just means more opportunity to grump at each other. But overall, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in our mornings and our interactions as a family. Both kids have mentioned how much they like having breakfast together. We’re going to try to keep it up over summer—although hopefully about an hour later than during the school year!
Because getting up earlier and getting downstairs sooner requires buy-in from the kids, we talked to them about why we were doing it. We discussed how mornings just weren’t going in a way that made us happy and weren’t how we wanted to start our day. And they’ve noticed the difference. In fact, our daughter has started the conversation about what we can do to make bedtime go more smoothly.
I’m not saying that if you don’t figure out how to have lovely homemade breakfasts for your kids every morning you’re failing at parenthood. (In fact, instant oatmeal in on our menu for tomorrow.) But I remember laughing when I’d read about the importance of all sitting down together as a family for a homecooked dinner every day. With our schedules, it just wasn’t going to happen. And rushed mornings seemed like a given as we tried to get three people out the door at the exact same moment. But there were little things that we could change, little things that have made a big difference.
So I’m not trying to tell you that what worked for my family will work for yours, but I do want to remind you that there may be some things you can change—the stressful, hectic times may not be inevitable. Think about one time of day that’s typically chaotic for your family, and see if you and your family can make a few changes that might ease some of that stress.
Oh, and try maple syrup and whipped cream on waffles—it’s even better than you’d think!