Any dad who has a school-age child knows what it takes every morning to get said child into the proper clothing, make sure he or she has had breakfast and leaves home in time to catch the bus, with all the necessary things in the school-bag. All this while you having to get yourself ready to go straight to work not looking like you’ve spent the previous night binge-drinking. I can assure you that when you have two or more kids to prepare, the challenges multiply exponentially. I confirmed this recently when for one morning I only had my littlest. In comparison it felt like being on holiday!
A few months ago I was talking to a dear friend of mine, also a single-dad, about what I call my ‘morning police-work’ and how much I hate yapping at the children and stressing them to move along. By the time they wave me goodbye through the bus windows I have the feeling they’re happy to see the back of me and I feel like I have worked a full day already. Since his kids are a few years older than mine I expected him to tell me that it will get better. But in fact he identified completely with what I was saying.
‘I’ve only recently solved it’ he told me, ‘I simply wake up earlier and take time for my toilet and my breakfast. That way by the time I wake up the children I am in a calm state and can handle it better’.
So obvious a nugget and yet hidden in plain sight! I am stressed with the children because I am stressed myself. If, on the other hand, when I wake up the children I am calm, refreshed and ready, things should run smoother. And indeed for the last few months they have.
My alarm goes off at 6:15 am and I allow myself a five-minute snooze. Then, I have a full forty minutes to take a shower at ease, do my morning Pilates and get myself ready. I even have ten-minutes to have my breakfast quietly while I catch up on the news. By the time I wake up the kids, at 7:00 am, I am actually looking forward to their company. I can even afford to take sometime to cuddle them before I force them out of their warm sheets.
It’s not perfect every morning, of course, and it comes at a price: getting into bed by 10:00 pm every evening when I have the children. But it has worked wonders and it has been a worth-while change. Most days I am a calmer dad and, more importantly, the children themselves are way less stressed.
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