Once school starts, mornings can become, shall we say, a bit chaotic. Kids need to be up and at ’em. Clothes need to be put on. Breakfast needs to be eaten. Lunch needs to be packed (and so do backpacks). Each of these tasks have their own variables. Sneakers could be lost. Snooze buttons could be hit. Lunch-packing might not go as planned. Plus: you. You’re on limited time, too, and, probably, a bit groggy because, life, man. But there are many ways to make mornings not organized but much less chaotic, from weekend routines to morning of failsafes. As every family is different, we spoke to six dads about the school morning routines they’ve established that allow them to get everyone out the door to school and work a little less frantically.
The School Week Begins on the Weekend
We make sure the homework is done and the due dates are marked on their respective school calendars and that the kids go to bed early. This is important in making sure the start of the school week is un-rushed. My daughter is self-motivated — she’s one of those annoying “morning people” that pops right out of bed ready to go in the morning. Her strategies differ from my 14-year-old son, who essentially needs to be physically removed from the bed. My daughter eases into her school day with morning reading, breakfast, and reviewing for any quizzes or tests that day. My son wakes up with awful bed-head and needs an adequate amount of time to treat his acne, shower, and get himself put together.
They usually like to get to school a little bit early to talk with friends, so we use punctuality as a motivator to keep them ahead of schedule each morning to allow for the inevitable lost glasses, missing shoes, or printer jams. The biggest strategies we have incorporated over the years are accountability, organization, and communication. We expect the kids to be accountable. For example, they need to let us know when the printer is out of paper or ink, they need to give us a list of supplies needed for a project, and they need to know where they are supposed to be and when. With such protocol in place, our mornings are much easier.
– Trent, 49, San Diego, CA
We Monitor Everything
My daughter and I prepare her lunch for the next day the night before. She chooses her own clothes the night before, too — my wife and I support her in this if necessary. I also watch her get her homework, school library books, etc. in her book bag the evening before, and my wife and I take turns reading a book to her before bed. Likewise, if there are any changes in routine, like carpools or I’m taking her to school instead of her mom, we talk her through it and run through the plan the night before. Before we leave the house, I give her a 20-minute warning, and then warn her every five minutes after that. I do my best not to badger her. I’ve found the more I remind her, the more it slows things down.
– Bruce, 75, Asheville, NC
We Plan the Entire Week Ahead
If I don’t get up in the morning early enough, to prepare myself, then it’s not going to work. We spend the night before preparing for the next day, otherwise, it’s a disaster. In fact, to save time, we actually set up our kids outfits for the entire week on Sunday night. My wife sets up the drawers that say “Monday,” “Tuesday,” “Wednesday,” “Thursday,” and “Friday,” and we put their clothes in there at the beginning of the week so the kids know what they’re going to wear each morning. We’ve found the outfits thing really smooths things over. This morning, I was up at the rooms at 6:10, 6:30, and again at 6:45 trying to get our kids up. I try to wake them up with songs, to start the day off on a positive note. But sometimes, I’ll go back downstairs and get breakfast going, and they’ll just roll right over and go back to sleep.
– John, 55, Atlanta, Georgia
We Tag Team the Morning Routine
My wife and I know that if we work at it together, the morning is smoother. We have a two-year-old toddler, so one of us stays home with him and we get things organized and ready for his day before, hopefully, the other one gets home from dropping the rest of our kids off. It’s a game of tag team. I have kids down from 6th grade to kindergarten; I have four that are in school right now. I can get the kids out of the house in 20 minutes if need be, but 35 minutes is our wake up, get-out-the-door time. In that time, we get everyone dressed, we get boys hair done, girls hair done, breakfast made, bags ready, and we’re out the door. It’s so-far a well-run ship, but it’s a little rusty sometimes. Some days, someone can’t find their shoes or they forgot where they put their shorts. But, such is the nature of children.
– Josh, 41, Palm Beach, Florida
We Stick to One Big Calendar
I’m the father of a 7-month-old and we have a dog who requires an hour of exercise per day. Our biggest “trick” to get out the door is that my wife and I are both big morning people and naturally get up around 6:30 or 7 a.m., giving us plenty of time to get out the door by 8:20 a.m. I naturally get up every day at this time without an alarm. My wife also loves this hour to be productive unless she herself goes to a workout or plays tennis. We roughly alternate, as needed.
We alternate by sharing a single calendar. We did it even before our kid was born. It’s hard to share work calendars, just because of company restrictions, so we just make sure that when we have work events, we duplicate it in our personal calendars so that the other person can see it, should there be an event where someone else has to pick up the slack in terms of getting our baby to daycare. We take our kid to a nanny share. We alternate, so it’s two weeks at another couple’s place and two weeks at ours. The couple lives five blocks away. We jumped on it immediately. In San Francisco, the traffic is absolutely the worst. We’re able to get there in like three minutes. And when they come over to our place, we need to be ready for the nanny share to begin. So the same routine applies whether or not we’re dropping our son off or if they’re coming to our place. We still have to be ready.
– Tim, San Francisco, California, 40
We Make the Morning a Game
I’m a single dad. I have to drive north for 20 minutes to either drop my son off with my parents, who watch him sometimes when while I’m at work, or his Pre-K class, and then I drive an hour south to my office. Every minute counts when I’m driving all over the county just to get my four-year-old dropped off and get to work on time.
So, I have a couple of tricks I use to help get my son up and moving. First, I usually wake up about an hour before him to shower and get everything ready for the day. But when I wake up, I turn the TV on and play a movie or Paw Patrol. I wouldn’t say I blare the volume, but I usually move it up a point or two. That way, eventually, he’ll wake up on his own and be in a much better, much more agreeable mood than if I had to wake him up myself.
Also, and I realize this won’t work for everyone, he loves going out with me when I walk the dog in the morning. So that ends up being a good motivator on mornings when he’s dragging. I just grab the leash, maybe call the dog’s name and he rushes to get ready so he can go out with us. Basically, if I can find ways to gamify things or at least incentivize things, I can get out the door on time.
– Patrick, 32, St. Petersburg, Florida