Just like everyone else, my son has strengths and weaknesses. While his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses, there is one trait that was driving me crazy on school day mornings: my son moves like a turtle. For the most part, I can accommodate his pace. However, in the morning my son is slow to rise, slow to dress, slow to eat, slow to brush his teeth. He gets distracted along the way by things much more interesting to him than getting ready for school.
A typical morning would go something like this:
7:30am: Wake my 11-year old daughter. Wake my 8-year old son. Head downstairs to get breakfast and lunch started.
7:40am: My daughter enters the kitchen fully dressed and ready for breakfast. I ask her if my son is up yet. “No.” she replies, “He’s still in bed.” I return to my son’s room to rouse him and head back downstairs.
7:50am: I look up the stairs (where I can see into my son’s room) to find that he’s still in his underwear playing with a toy on his dresser. I beg my son to please get dressed and come downstairs.
8:00am: My son appears barefoot, but otherwise clothed, in the kitchen where he takes a seat and begins making a wall of cereal boxes between himself and his sister. I remind my son to please not play at the table and eat. My daughter finishes her breakfast, puts her dishes in the sink and goes upstairs to continue getting ready.
8:05am: My patience dwindling, I finally pour cereal and milk in my son’s bowl for him and hand him a spoon. I remind him that he still has to eat, wash his face, brush his hair, brush his teeth and put on socks and shoes before we walk out the door to catch the bus at 8:30.
8:08am: I ask my son to please stop trying to balance the spoon on the edge of the bowl and EAT!
8:11am: “Please finish eating.”
8:17am: I interrupt my son as he reaches for the cereal box to pour himself another bowl. “You don’t have enough time,” I say. He insists he still hungry. I don’t give in, but inwardly feel like an ogre for refusing my son more food. I send my son upstairs to brush his teeth.
8:18am: I can hear my son talking to my daughter. Since you can’t talk and brush your teeth, I call up the stairs to remind him what he should be doing.
8:20am: My daughter comes downstairs completely ready for school and begins to read while she waits for 8:30 to arrive. I stomp up the stairs to find my son “cleaning” the dried toothpaste out of the toothpaste cap. I plead with him to stop fooling around. “Brush your teeth”, I growl through gritted teeth.
8:23am: Upstairs is completely quiet. Ugh. Quiet isn’t good. I tip-toe up the stairs so I can catch my son doing whatever it is he shouldn’t be doing. I find him back in his room with the sock drawer open, playing with same toy from half an hour ago.
8:24am: Seething, I quietly remove the toy from my son’s grasp, take a pair of socks out of his drawer and hand them to him. I stand over him and watch while he s-l-o-w-l-y puts them on. (What I really want to do is rip the socks out of his hand and shove them on his feet.)
8:27am: I rush my son downstairs to put on his shoes. Watching this time is too painful. I untie and loosen his sneakers so he can just slide them on. I tie one while he ties the other.
8:30am: I open the door and begin walking out with my daughter while my son takes his time getting off the floor. “C’mon, Buddy, you’re going to miss the bus.” I walk ahead with my daughter hoping he’ll catch up.
8:32am: My son runs up the driveway as the bus approaches. I give both kids a swift kiss, tell them I love them and to have a good day. As my son walks away I realize he never did brush his hair. I feel awful that a frustrated Mom is the last thing my kids see before they leave me for the day.
One day I realized that I was giving all of my time and attention to my son, while my daughter, who is ready on time nearly every day, got practically none. In fact, I would often drag her into the drama by asking her to go check on my son. I had tried everything I could think of: rewards, punishments, threats, coaxing, begging, yelling. We had fallen into a rut and things had to change. I needed give my daughter the attention she deserved and for my son to be accountable for his own actions.
I came up with a sly, new plan. As I tucked my son into bed the night before the plan went into effect, I told him that in the morning I would wake him up only once. “How many times will I wake you up?” I asked. “Once,” he replied. Okay, I had confirmation. We were on the same page.
The next day I did as I said. I woke my son once and reminded him that this was his only wakeup call. I went downstairs and started getting breakfast and lunch ready. When my daughter came downstairs, I didn’t ask her about my son. Instead, I thanked her for getting ready so quickly and enjoyed chatting with her while she ate breakfast and I packed lunchboxes.
I’ll readily admit, I felt a pang of guilt that I wasn’t checking on my son, but I was also enjoying my reduced-stress morning.
I knew the minute my son woke up; I could hear him tearing around upstairs. When he finally came down at 8:10am (40 minutes after I woke him up), he looked completely panicked as he explained that he had fallen back to sleep. I calmly offered him breakfast. He ate without fooling around and headed back upstairs at 8:20am to finish getting ready.
My son wasn’t downstairs yet when my daughter and I headed out the door to catch the bus. It was hard not to give in to my guilt and remind him the bus was coming. When next I saw him, he was running up the driveway as the bus pulled away. He was crestfallen when he realized he had missed the bus. I gave him a hug and told him it was okay and that I was sure he wouldn’t miss the bus tomorrow.
When we got back inside, I turned to my son and asked, “So, how are you getting to school?” Shocked he replied, “Aren’t you going to drive me?” I said, “Sure, but I charge a dollar for a ride to school. If you’re going to treat me like a taxi service, keep in mind that taxi drivers get paid.” He stood there staring at me while he absorbed this information. Slowly his eyes filled with tears and the waterworks began. I couldn’t believe how upset he got about parting with that dollar. This was one of those times when I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time. I hated seeing my son so upset, but I was also thrilled that I had finally come up with a consequence that impacted meant something to him.
Still crying, my son went to his room and returned with a dollar. I (only somewhat) guiltily took his dollar and put it in my pocket, then we left for school.
I returned from the trip to school feeling encouraged and reenergized. Tomorrow would be the true test.
The next day when I woke my son, he immediately got out of bed, got dressed and came downstairs for breakfast. The rest of the morning went just as smoothly. As I turned and walked away from the bus, I pumped my fist in the air, “Yes!”
This is an original post to jerseymomsblog.com.