Struggling as Not-a-Morning-Person When You Have Little Kids

It was a weekday, about 7:30 a.m. My husband slung his briefcase over his shoulder and grabbed his keys. “Have a great day, girls,” he said.

“Da!” Anna exclaimed, throwing her little 2-year-old arms around one leg.

“Me too!” yelled Grace, stronghold-ing his other leg.

“I love you guys too,” Stanton said. “Have a great day with Mom.”

Grace pouted. “I wish we could come with you.”

Anna imitated her big sister’s pout. “Da, Da, Da.”

Scenes like these are always an ego boost for me. “Come on, girls,” I said, pouring myself a cup of coffee. “We’re going to have a fun day.”

Stanton escaped out the front door. Our daughters trudged over to me. “So what are we doing today, Mom?” Grace asked, as I sat down.

“Ma, Ma, Ma.” Anna climbed into my lap. She smiled at the bowl of Cheerios I’d poured for myself. “Yum, yum, yum.” Grabbing my spoon, she began shoveling cereal into her mouth.

“Anna…” I sighed. “Can’t Mom eat her breakfast?”

Anna shook her head. I shook my head too, and reached for my coffee.

“What are we doing today, Mom?” Grace repeated.

“Well, you have school…”

“Yay!” Grace said. “I want to pick out my clothes.”

I frowned at her. “Excuse me. Is that how you ask to do something?”

“Please can I pick out my clothes?”

Anna munched on Cheerios.

“We’ll pick them out together,” I told Grace.

Grace exhaled, deeply. “Fine. I want us to do that now…please?”

“I need to drink my coffee first.”

Grace kicked at the floor. “All you do is drink coffee,” she grumbled.

“Excuse me?” Before I could go on, something cold, wet and mushy fell into my lap. I looked down. Anna, meanwhile, looked up. She had tipped over the bowl of Cheerios.

“Anna,” I groaned, getting up.

“Aaahhh,” she said, stepping into the cereal on the floor.

“No!” I said, reaching over to grab her. I deposited her away from the spill. “This happens all…the…time,” I said, wiping at my previously clean pair of pants with a napkin.

“Don’t whine, Mom—solve the problem,” Grace said.

This is something I say to her, but it’s not something I want to hear, uncaffeinated, at 7:35 a.m.

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Fact: I am not a morning person.

Another fact: Most mornings, I struggle as not-a-morning-person with my two little kids.

Mainly, I struggle to be patient.

I struggle to be patient when my toddler spills my bowl of cereal on the floor for the third or fourth or 40th morning a row.

I struggle to be patient when my preschooler accuses me of “only drinking coffee,” when I was up until midnight the night before working on a writing project, folding laundry and filling out her application for spring soccer.

I’m working on becoming a more patient mom, especially in the morning.

Mornings when Stanton is out of town for work can be particularly trying. These are usually the mornings that Grace picks to greet me at 5:45 a.m. with urgent questions like, “Mom, where’s my purple glue stick?” and “For our summer vacation, can we go to the moon?”

I answer—“I don’t know;” “No”—only to be asked the same follow-up question multiple times in a row. Yes, you guessed it: the ever-popular, never-ending “Why?”

“Why, Mom?

“Why?

“Why? Why? WHY?”

Oh. My. Goodness.

On one such husband-out-of-town morning, I set the girls up in Grace’s room with plenty of fun activities—sticker books, “pretend and play” doctor kits, blocks—so that I could take a shower. About a minute after I turned the water on, the girls poked their heads inside the shower curtain, pointed at me and began laughing hysterically.

Let me just tell you, friends: I’m in my 30s. Could be in better shape, stretch marks—you know how it goes. To wake up, begin showering and then see the reasons for those stretch marks point at you and laugh hysterically—there are more rewarding feelings than that, I have to say.

Another morning I was brushing my teeth. I reached behind the bathroom door for my towel—at which point the door suddenly slammed my head against the wall. “Aaahhh!” I cried. What had just happened?

Then I saw Anna looking up at me. She smiled. “Ma!”

“We found you!” Grace shouted from behind her.

“Guys. Guys.” I willed myself not to raise my voice. “Did you see what just happened? My head is killing me!”

“Mom,” Grace hissed. “Remember, you don’t like that word.”

I closed my eyes.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, the girls and I do our best to get Grace to preschool on time. The wild card, though: Anna. Some mornings we’ll be ready to go, with everything we need—my diaper bag, Grace’s backpack, water for the girls and coffee for me—when Anna throws a fit when I try to put her jacket on. Or she takes her pants off. Or wants to wear Grace’s tap shoes.

(What to wear. The majority of my conflicts and time sucks with my daughters revolve around what to wear.)

Eventually, we’ll get out the front door. Get in the car and on our way.

A couple of minutes later…

“Spill! Spill!” Anna.

“Mom! Anna had a spill.” Grace.

I glance back. Anna’s sippy cup of water, marketed as leak-proof, is in fact not. Water soaks her pants.

“Off! Off!” Anna.

“Mom! Anna wants to take her pants off.”

Of course she does.

I reach for my coffee. “As soon as we stop, I’ll change Anna’s clothes.”

“Off! Off!” Anna’s voice is becoming increasingly strident.

“Mom! Anna wants to take her pants off now!”

The clock says 8:26 a.m. I gulp down some coffee. “Let me find a song on the radio, girls.”

“Off! Off! OFF!!!”

I turn on the radio. It’s in the middle of a song we all like. “Keep it here!” Grace yells.

“OFF!” Anna keeps yelling. Maybe by the chorus, she’ll have settled down.

I have some more coffee.

Yes, I struggle as not-a-morning-person. But I’m working on it, one daybreak at a time. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, right, friends?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

I’m Redshirting My Summer-Birthday Daughter: Our Family’s Story

“Higher, Mom! Higher!”

It was a Friday morning, and my daughters and I had been at the park for nearly two hours.

We began our time here at the jungle gym (1-year-old Anna gleefully tried to keep up with her big sister; I burned hundreds of calories dashing to save her life several times). Then we walked through the neighboring savanna (a bathroom break for Grace, diaper change for Anna and snacks for everyone included). Now we were back at the playground, and I was pushing both girls on a swing set.

“OK, hold on!” I pushed Grace higher.

“Woo-hoo!” she yelled.

“Woo!” Anna echoed, clapping her hands.

This was the kind of the moment that made parenthood—especially parenthood of small children—worth it.

Worth all the sleep-deprived nights in the beginning. Worth the sibling squabbling that followed, sooner than expected. Worth the tradeoff of weeklong romantic vacations for date nights close to home, in order to save for the kids’ 529 plans.

My girls were happy and getting along. The sun was shining. I felt caffeinated and energized, thanks in equal parts to my travel mug of coffee and the natural Vitamin D.

It was a storybook moment. We moms and dads know they don’t come as often as we’d like. When they do, though, we treasure them.

Grace has an August birthday. In a couple of months, she’ll turn 5. She’s eligible to begin kindergarten here in Texas this fall (the cutoff date is September 1), but I decided to give her one more year at home with Anna and me.

One more year to experience more of these spontaneous storybook moments with us, before our family life becomes busier with more formal education for Grace (and Anna) and more out-of-the-home work for me.

Educators, policymakers and others call this practice of delaying kindergarten for summer-birthday babies “redshirting.” Maybe you’ve dealt with it, too?

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A lot has been written about the advantages and disadvantages of having a child start their formal education at age 6 rather than 5. I’ve read through some of these articles, keeping in mind that there are pros and cons along every path.

One advantage that authors often point out is that the additional year can benefit children socially. I do think this will be true for Grace.

She’s sweet, smart and shy, especially in new situations. Being one of the oldest in her kindergarten class, then, probably will give her an extra boost of confidence.

I’ve watched Grace look out for the smaller kids in her preschool dance and gymnastics classes—as well as her own little sister and kids in the park. She’s naturally nurturing with littler kids. I can see her feeling comfortable and helpful as one of the oldest in her kindergarten class.

Another advantage that educators and policymakers indicate is the academic one. If a child starts kindergarten a year later, then they will have had an extra year to prepare for kindergarten—to learn the alphabet, count and follow directions. Grace already does these things fairly well; if anything, reviewing these items in a kindergarten class may not hold her interest, a disadvantage.

However, the majority of families that redshirt their summer-birthday sons and daughters tend to be highly educated, upper-middle class ones—those who can afford to provide another year of preschool and/or child care. A 2015 Atlantic article discusses how this socioeconomic divergence in redshirting can, unfortunately, further widen the skills gap between higher-income and lower-income kids.

I don’t want to contribute to this skills gap. I think, though, that one more year of storybook moments will be special for both my daughters. I think it will be a time we’ll look back on and treasure—for its spontaneity, its simplicity, its sweetness.

I’m looking forward to the year ahead with my girls. Grace will be attending preschool three days a week. Anna and I will continue our “Mommy and Me” time at the park, children’s museum and (let’s be honest) non-fun but necessary stops such as the grocery store and dry cleaner’s.

Together, all three of us are embarking on something new, too. Our city sponsors a volunteer storytime program, with the goal of encouraging youth literacy in those who could use a helping hand. I’m excited to join this program, a great volunteer match for a book lover, writer and mom like me.

This experience should be meaningful for everyone involved—the kids, me and my daughters. Grace especially will see firsthand the good that can happen when people from varying sides of a gap unite over reading and stories.

“To hell with facts! We need stories!” said Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Every child has their own story to tell. Correspondingly, every family has their own ethos, their way of life that works best for them. Redshirting kindergarten is the route that makes the most sense for us—it’s simply our family’s story.

“Higher, Mom! Higher!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

No Back-to-Preschool Pictures This Fall

The summer vacation status updates in my Facebook news feed are beginning to get replaced with back-to-preschool pictures. And just the other day, Little G asked when she was going back to school.

We were driving home from a preschool friend’s birthday party. Little G had so much fun playing with all of her school friends who were there, some of whom she hadn’t seen since the Pre-K3 class ended in May. My hubby and I looked at each other.

“Maybe we should just have her go,” Stanton said under his breath.

“What?” Little G from her car seat in the back. She doesn’t miss a beat.

Stanton and I smiled at each other. And then, feeling a twinge of uncertainty, I said, “No, let’s stick with our plan.”

“What’s our plan?”

So I filled in our 4-year-old daughter. “We’re taking a break from preschool. You know how you stayed home with Mommy and Anna all summer? And we had girl time … we played together and took you to dance class …”

“And went to the coffee shop?”

Stanton laughed. Yes, dance class and the coffee shop: an accurate summary of the past three months with Little G and her baby sister. I nodded.

“We’re going to do girl time for a little longer,” I said.

Next fall, Little G will start either kindergarten or (because of her late-summer birthday) attend a final year of preschool. I hope to be writing and working more by that time, too. The sentimental side of me views this time until then as a special season for my two girls to simply be together and enjoy together, before recommitting to a busier family schedule.

“Play, dance class, and the coffee shop—OK,” Little G said.

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For two years, Little G’s preschool experience was wonderful—socially, educationally, and spiritually. And it was meaningful for me, too. Most importantly, her preschool provided quality child care for when I was working and, later, attending lots of prenatal appointments while awaiting Baby G’s arrival. And perhaps just as importantly, her school offered us a warm, loving community in which to connect with other families in similar stages of life.

I’ll miss seeing all our preschool friends on a regular basis—at drop-off, pick-up, and school events—as Little G will. At the same time, it’s fun to keep in touch and make the time to get together, just as we do with the other good friends in our life from our neighborhood, church, and library story time.

Ultimately, I think my girls will treasure this “year off” together. Of course, I could always be wrong. As Pam Brown once said, “Sisters never quite forgive each other for what happened when they were five”—or in the case of my daughters, 4 years old and 6 months. 🙂

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.