My Girl will only wake up for well-behaved baby hyenas and Thomas Jefferson
Back to school.
Finally. After longest weekend in history (approximately March 16 to present day) and after numerous nightmares featuring the Alice Cooper soundtrack (School’s out FOREVER), My Girl is back in session.
I probably shouldn’t say that too loudly. I don’t want to scare it away. In my mind, in-session school is like a skittish, wide-eyed fawn. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t make any sudden movements. It may scare and be gone as quickly as it came.
But for now, school is not out FOREVER. With in-session school comes my next big worry.
Puh-lease. That shit don’t scare me.
Mornings. That’s what keeps me up at night.
Getting My Girl moving in the mornings has never been an easy feat. Now, thanks to quarantine, she has discovered the joy of sleeping in.
I wasn’t complaining just last week. When The Husband and I are both *attempting* to work from home, My Girl’s habit of sleeping in until 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. or one two, glorious occasions, 10:30 a.m. is a chance for us to get some much-needed work done without the constant chatter of a lonely, 8YO who won’t stop until I answer her burning question:
What consonant do you wish was a vowel?
I don’t have an answer for that.
But now that it’s back to some semblance of normal, My Girl cannot get away with the habits of a partied-out fraternity brother.
The morning struggle
So back we go to the struggle that is every morning. (Every Morning – do you hear the melody of Sugar Ray playing in your head, too? No? Just me who’s a Mark McGrath fan?)
It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’m one for self-improvement. I’m also one for trial and error. I’m like the Thomas Edison of morning routines. I haven’t quite hit 1000 different methods, but here are a few that I’ve experimented with:
- To Do List – I made a list of things My Girl has to complete before we head out to school – make her bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, fix her hair, brush her teeth, feed Totty (her pet tortoise) and give Mr. Darcy (our dog) his medicine. I even did the millennial parenting style: “Would you rather get dressed first or eat breakfast first?” See how that trick works? She thinks she gets a choice, but really she’s doing what I want. Millennial parenting equals manipulation. I’m not judging or complaining, but I am saying that Jedi mind crap doesn’t work on My Girl. The conversation is more like:
Me: “Would you rather get dressed first or eat breakfast first?”
My Girl: “Wouldn’t it be funny if Mrs. Irwin came to school with purple hair?
Me: “Yes, very funny. Which first? Get dressed or eat breakfast?”
My Girl: “I wonder what Mrs. Irwin’s favorite color is. I think it’s teal. She had a lot of teal things on her desk.”
Me: “My Girl!”
My Girl: (innocently and completely unaware that I’m dangling on the edge of a Mount Vesuvius eruption) “Yes, Momma?”
Me: (deep breath) “Are you getting dressed first or eating breakfast first?”
My Girl: (long, contemplative silence) “Snuggles!”
(This was a verbatim conversation. Also, My Girl very much misses her second grade teacher.)
2. Setting a Timer – Obviously, giving My Girl choices is not the answer. So I tried setting a timer. I would wake My Girl up and tell her she has 10 minutes before she has to start getting dressed. After that timer went off (with her still lounging in bed), I would set the next one. She had 10 minutes to get dressed and come downstairs for breakfast. After the timer went off (and My Girl was not yet downstairs), I would yell PG13 curses (such as “bloody” and “flipping”) until she came to the kitchen. Then the timer would start again to finish breakfast. What did this accomplish? Well, My Girl learned the “f-word” (she thinks it’s “flipping.”) Also, it succeeded in making me even more stressed out because I don’t like the pressure of a countdown. Other than that, it had zero effect on My Girl.
3. Bribery – If you’ve read more than one of my blog posts, you know that bribery is my parenting style of choice. I’m not above buying My Girl’s good behavior. So to get her moving in the mornings, I’ve been known to offer strawberry milk or hot chocolate for breakfast; I’ve let her pick out her own clothes (frilly Easter dress with cowboys boots, most likely, if you know anything about My Girl’s style); I even attempted a sticker chart for mornings we get out of the house on time without making that vein in my temple pop out and say good morning to the first grade teacher manning drop-off at the school parking lot.
Validated by Pinterest
Since I haven’t quite tried 1000 different methods for a good morning, I did what any mom in 2020 would do to prepare for these school mornings… I trolled Pinterest. Also if you’ve read more than one of my blog posts, you know I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest. I love finding parenting ideas, but hate my results.
In this case, though, I found nothing but self-validation. Mark your calendars, folks, and head for the nuclear fallout shelters, because, surely, the world is coming to an end. According to Pinterest, I’m already doing (or at least) tried all the right things: checklist (for example), timer, and “positive reinforcement” (which we all know means bribe your child like your life depends on it, and since I’m probably going to have a stroke one of these mornings due to pure frustration, my life probably does depend on it.)
So, let me take a second here to pat myself on the back for doing all the Pinterest-approved activities. And then give me another second to crash my head through a plate glass window, because these techniques do not work for My Girl.
The Thomas Jefferson Morning Method
I think our biggest problem is there is no rhyme or reason as to why we have good mornings and why we have bad ones. It’s like my hair. I was blessed/cursed with curly hair. Again, there’s no rhyme or reason as to whether it’s a good hair day or a bad one. I wash my hair with the same shampoo/conditioner, use the same gel (the cheapest money can buy because why bother?), hit it with the diffuser for a few minutes and hope for the best. Some days I look like Felicity before she went pixie and pissed off the world. Other days, (according to My Girl) I look like Thomas Jefferson.
In my defense, Hamilton has confused her as to what our founding fathers truly look like. When she compared me to the third president of the United States, she meant I had Daveed Diggs’ dreadlocks. Wait… I don’t know that’s really “in my defense.”
Even when she’s on time, she’s late
And just to keep me on my toes, it’s not just the issue of moving quickly. Many times in the mornings when she is up and moving, My Girl likes to throw a random wrench in the mix.
Like, she’ll try to drink her daily Zyrtec dose like a shot of whisky. But similar to a cowboy in a saloon who’s had too many shots, she misses her mouth completely. So much for an early start… Now we need to change her outfit. And she needs to wipe up the counter, stool and floor (because, yes, it shot all over). But then My Girl sprays all those surfaces down with Spic and Span and never wiped it up. Sweet Judas. Are you surprised I’m a Howler?
Other times, she gets ready like a ninja. Literally. My Girl will prop pillows up in bed to look like a sleeping form and sneak around the house getting her list of morning activities done.
She hides in the shadows as I pack her lunch. She tiptoes over the squeaky step (the past-curfew step that I had hoped would give her away in her teenage years, but alas!). Then she’ll pop out from behind the open fridge door as I put away the milk carton and scare the limited early morning patience right out of me.
I’m happy she’s getting ready so quickly. Truly, I am. But I hate being scared. I don’t know what happened to me. I used to sit through Halloween marathons. But now I hate being startled. Maybe it’s my old age.
(I’m going to pause here and wait for The Husband to disagree. You’re not old! You’re as young and beautiful as the day we fell in love! That was age 17. Maybe I don’t want to be that young.)
So her stealthy moves in the a.m… not much better.
I know. I’m just impossible to please.
Sometimes the mornings work… if only I knew why!
It’s not all bad and me threatening to blow up the house with my short, morning fuse. I’ve stumbled (and stumbled is the appropriate word here) on a few things that have worked, albeit sparingly and randomly.
- Using My Girl’s imagination against her. One morning (per Monica’s suggestion, I believe), I dared My Girl to get ready “like a cheetah”, since anyone without an animal-obsessed 8YO knows how crazy fast cheetahs are. My Girl responded: “Cheetahs aren’t actually the fastest animal in the world. Falcons are. And falcons don’t go to school.” Recently, though, My Girl got ready the quickest in history – pretending to be a “well-behaved baby hyena.” I don’t ask. I just count my blessings.
- Hamilton. At this point in our lives, Hamilton is the answer to everything. It’s taken me six weeks of studying and practicing, but I successfully woke up My Girl and got her out of bed by rapping the full first verse of “My Shot”. I probably shouldn’t brag, but dang, I amaze and astonish. At least My Girl was amazed and astonished. And awake.
- And when in doubt, Dance Party. Monica and I discovered the mysterious power of dance parties many moons ago (see here). I don’t know if the magic comes from refocusing My Girl or bringing down my blood pressure, but either way, I’ll take it.
Back into the morning grove
So here comes the first week of getting ready for school. To My Girl’s credit, the fit didn’t hit the shan until day 4. I was using The Thomas Jefferson Method – wake My Girl up on what I deemed “on time” and pray for the best.
On day 4, the morning went something like this:
Me: “You are running way behind. You’ve got to feed Totty, brush your teeth and give Mr. Darcy medicine. We have to leave to pick up Jane in 10 minutes.”
My Girl: (disappears for 8 minutes then jumps out and scares me, which we’ve already established I hate more than being compared to an 18th century slave owner)
Me: “Are you ready?”
My Girl: “Yep!”
Me: “Great. So you fed Totty and brushed your teeth?”
My Girl: “Oh… no. Not yet.”
Me: (internal screaming)
So while she’s brushing her teeth, I grab her shoes and hand her socks. I expect her to run down the stairs after me, since we are late. She brings up the rear like a reluctant foot soldier, finally – wearing mismatch socks.
Me: “Are you telling me on a morning when I’m already about to lose it and you are running late, you decided to go back and pick out different socks?!” (At this point, I’m like Hades in Disney’s Hercules when Panic slurps on a Hercules-branded slushie. My dreadlocks — apparently – are about to spontaneously combust and destroy us all.)
My Girl: “The left sock made my foot feel weird.”
There you have it folks… Time of death on my no yelling resolve for the new school year: 7:39 a.m. Cause: My Girl’s left sock made her foot feel weird.