Help! We’re Always Late!

Dear Mamas,
My daughter is now in the first grade and I have to confess I’m having trouble getting her to school on time. We have a baby too, and it’s hard to get everything ready so early! Is this terrible? Any suggestions?

Dear Olivia,

Hey mama, take a breath! Starting first grade for the first time is ridiculously intense! Seriously! She may as well be starting an internship at the White House considering how nerve-wracking it can be. But relax, before you know it, you’ll be dealing with second grade and smiling in sympathy at those frantic, green, first-grade mothers.

But in the meantime, no it’s not terrible, but it is important for your daughter that you get your act together — baby or not — and make sure she’s there on time. Sounds a little harsh, I know, but old habits die hard and you don’t want to get into a late-to-school one. Teachers do not look kindly on tardiness and the one who will suffer most will be your child.

There’s also the concern that she will be getting schooled in an “I am so important that I can make people wait” mentality even though I’m sure that’s not what you are intending. Still, being on time is one of the ways that we teach our kids consideration and respect for others so we have to take it seriously and teach through our own example.

But hey, don’t feel bad. I occasionally missed the bell myself when my kids were in the primary grades and there was a wee one in the house. I think most parents have been there. It’s hard! So let me give you a few suggestions and see if they help you get out the door on time:

1. Get an alarm clock and use it. One for you and one for your daughter. Teach her how to operate it and watch her set it each night. This is one of those life skills that will serve her well. If she has her own clock, she will begin to take responsibility for getting up in the morning. Even if she doesn’t get going immediately, she will be on her way out of Dreamland when you come into her room. Plus, she can start working on learning about clocks and telling time! Bonus!

2. Establish a morning routine like: get up; wash face and hands; get dressed; come for breakfast; brush teeth; out the door. Whatever works for you guys is good.

3. Lay out her clothes (and yours, too) the night before. I used to put my daughter’s on the floor in the shape of a person with the shoes and socks tucked below the pants or skirt. This made it easy for her to figure out what went where even when she was sleepy.

4. Make her lunch the night before and stash it in the fridge. Have her cereal bowl, cup and silverware laid out on the table before you go to bed. Measure the coffee and water in the coffee maker so you just have to hit “on” when you walk into the kitchen.

5. Have her backpack filled with whatever needs to go to school and have it waiting near the door (this all sounds so Donna Reed-ish).

See where this is going? The main thing is to do as much as possible to prepare before you go to bed. Then, if the baby is up and you are a groggy mess in the morning you won’t have to struggle to figure out how to get from A to B which can be tough if you can’t even remember your name for lack of sleep.

Before you know it, you’ll have it down and you’ll feel relieved, she’ll feel secure and you’ll all have a much happier start to the day! Good luck!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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