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Monday morning at our house was disastrous.  The blush of the start of the school year had faded.   The kids were already tired.  And we had four more such mornings ahead of us.

Tuesday looked to be no better because I knew I would be obsessively worrying about the screw what was going to be implanted in my jaw later that day.

Wednesday, I fretted, could potentially outrank them both because I had no idea what state of recovery / prescription induced bliss I would be in.  Worried with good reason.  We still tell the story of our cross country move back in the summer of ’95 when my then-boyfriend-now-husband found me standing in the middle of the road.  It was an unusually cool Boulder day and the enormous shade trees lining the lane were apparently doing their job just a bit too well for my comfort.  I was standing in the dead center of the street trying to warm myself in a dappled patch of sunlight, staring off into the middle ground and mumbling something about a sweater made of sunshine.  And that was after taking a single Benadryl.

But back to Monday.  The kids were finally on their way out the door and I thought, we can’t do that again.  Actually.  Seriously.  We. Cannot. Do.  That.  Again.  And so I racked and racked my brain for ideas and finally (quel surpise) I decided to write them a letter.


It went something, well, something exactly like this:

I’ve got to say, this morning didn’t go the way I hoped.  I don’t want us to be snippy with each other, I don’t want us to get angry at one another.  I want us to love each other and help each other.  And I want the mornings to go in a way that reflects what is true:  that you are both tremendously amazing people.  Dad and I are filled with love and pride for who you are as a 6 year old and as an 11 year old.  And we know you can do so many great things in the world.  And, we know that this includes getting the things you need to do in the morning done.  So we’re going to stop asking and telling and nagging every 30 seconds.  Because I fear that the message that you get when we do that is that we don’t find you to be capable, amazing, tremendous people.  And we never want you to feel that way.

I’ve created a list for each of you of the tasks that need to be done each morning {one had a fancy title: ‘Eleanor’s I Am Capable List’, and Cole’s font was retro diner style}.  Please look it over and let me know if I’ve missed anything.  Each day it will be your responsibility to go over the list and get each task accomplished.  About 3 times each morning- every 15 minutes or so-  we’ll check in with you to see how it is coming – and see if we can help out.  In between those times we’re going to be doing the things we need to do for our mornings.  Eating breakfast, making lunches, and of course, drinking coffee.

If you get stuck and you need help, please ask for it.  We love you.  We want our mornings to be filled with that love.

I presented them each with the letter and their respective lists when they got home.  Vague interest.  A couple of shrugs.  A guarded sense of sure- I’ll try that.

But guess what?  The craziest things are happening…the lists are working.  Not to say it couldn’t go south in a minute, not to say the novelty of the lists won’t wear off.  But for now, in fact for two nows in a row, it is working.  We aren’t nagging.  They are both {are you sitting down?} ready for school ahead of time.  And the bickering was almost, almost non-existent.

So why were Tuesday and Wednesday not Mondays?  Both kids have the memory of elephants, they don’t actually need to be reminded about what needs to be done.  I think the difference was us, the adults.  We released our anxiety, we let go of frantically watching the clock and racing that against what was left to be done.  We treated them as the capable kids they are.

We changed the emotional air around us.

One of the hardest parts of parenting, or at least one of hardest for me, is acknowledging that my children’s actions don’t occur in a vacuum.  That how I am present with them impacts, even alters what they do.  I am not saying I am responsible for their every action.  That way goes madness.  Children are not robots to be programmed and set out to have perfect assembly line behavior.  But nor are they completely autonomously living in a bubble, impervious to our influence.  Why were Tuesday and Wednesday not Monday?  Because our children felt the fresh breath of change on their cheeks.

By suggesting that they were more, they became it.  Was it that simple?  Will it last?  Has bickering ended and promptness become a family hallmark?  And what about Thursday?  Will it go as well? It could be we’ve had two great days and they are the bellwether for a whole new kind of morning.

Or it could be the magic of the meds.  I’m still looking for my sunshine sweater.  If I find it I’ll keep you posted.


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