Even though my toddler has been having epic meltdowns every morning and my tween's pace has seemingly slowed to a crawl from shower to cereal bowl to the front door, I bristled a little when I read this article about how to smooth out the rough spots in your morning routine with kids.
The crux of it is that kids' developing brains need more connection than they may be getting in the morning rush. When they don't get a few minutes to fill their buckets, they essentially short circuit – and we are probably all familiar with how that ends. Mom yells more than she wants to, kids forget stuff, tears, spilled Cheerios, lateness, a family case of what we call The Crabbers McGees.
But when I read again what science says about adding two little minutes of gratitude, compassion and, yes, snuggles to mornings before all those asks begin (eat your eggs, tie your shoes, make yourself not stink, grab your backpack, move slightly faster than sloth speed), my tired mind opened to how this one tactic may motivates kids to cooperate rather than choose their own brand of resistance (tantrums, arguments, more sloth speed). Hey, science says it, so why not try it? I'd like calmer mornings with less yelling (me) and more cooperation (them).
Being alone with kids during the a.m. routine is even more reason to experiment. Managing kids on your own in the mornings can be a lot. More than a lot. It can be a real moment of planning out when you will pop open the wine, 10 hours in advance. I also recall plenty of rushed mornings when the pokey/sobbing/screaming kids had everything they needed from head to toe, but I left without makeup/my own lunch/any remaining patience.
The suggestions here from experts say to spend two minutes cuddling, then sprinkle in high fives, a gratitude moment or joke of the day or some other bonding ritual. You probably have plenty of these in your parenting arsenal, so you're just going to pull them out sooner in the day than you might otherwise. My initial eye-rolling was all about me adding one more thing to this packed-full schedule. But really, it wasn't hard.
I started by thinking about the real pain points. My super-independent daughter wants to pick out her outfits every day. And also, they must be ballerina or princess outfits. It all goes downhill from there. To remove one more ask from the morning, I decided we'd pick out her outfits together the night before. The next morning, our high fives are all momentum building to putting on that amazing Elsa ensemble after breakfast. Hallelujah! It is working. And when I sense the heat rising on a meltdown, my new favorite distraction is to say, "Hey, remember what a cute outfit you chose last night? I can't wait to see you in it!" It's not foolproof, but it does work often.
For my tween, I've gone back to a few little rituals I aced when he was only child – adding notes to his lunch box and inviting him in to chat with me while I put on makeup. I make it easy by scribbling out doodles or notes with a Sharpie on his sandwich bags. And our quick chats while I swipe on lipstick help me to start the day off more positively, too.
The two-minute snuggle is a little trickier, but we are working on building that in and up, day after day. Part of that is training them to not wiggle out of my arms and part of it is reminding me to take some deep breaths before the day I kick it into high gear.
I'm no longer considering these moments and nuzzles something extra on my morning to-do list, but as an investment in actually having a happier hour before I say goodbye to the people I love most. And also, maybe in getting out the door as close to smiling as possible, as much on schedule as we can.
My prickly feelings about this science seems far off, even though I read this article just a couple of weeks ago. And now I see that the "one more thing" that I was worried about is beginning the day in a way I believe in anyway – with love, calm and as much hugging as I can squeeze out of my kids. And then a bucket of coffee.