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Here’s why getting three kids ready for school each day should qualify as an Olympic sport

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki Stevenson

Nikki is a parenting writer and a mom to three wild boys who keep her on her toes (and occasionally make her question her sanity). With over 15 years of experience in the parenting industry, she has more tips and tricks than Mary Poppins on speed dial. When she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can find her sipping on coffee, hiding in the bathroom for five minutes of...
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 6 mins read
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Current POV: Taking a giant sip of fresh, hot coffee in a silent house as I feel the stress start to leave my body. Cut to ten minutes earlier: I managed to get three kids out of the house, school bags intact, on time. Every. Single. Morning.

This is how that story goes.

Our day begins at the ungodly hour of 6:00 am. The mission? Rouse Tyler, my newly minted 13-year-old who’s adopted a typical teen aversion to mornings, Tiago, the 9-year-old who we refer to as a morning penguin as it closely resembles his slow shuffle to get ready, and Alex, the 6-year-old who greets most mornings with a grin but some mornings with a mood equivalent to a bear woken up mid-hibernation. Three kids, three different energy levels, and the fun is only beginning!

Operation: ‘Uniform Chaos’

Next comes the dizzying operation of ‘Uniform Chaos.’ Here, Tiago likes to add a twist to the morning saga by attempting to get dressed while still sprawled in bed. School uniforms, PE kits, regular uniforms, and sports kits swirl around us depending on the day of the week and each child’s schedule. What I would give for the kids is to all wear the same uniform (or sports kit) every day of the week. This would save a lot of phone calls from school that sound like, “Mum, I forgot my gum guard/soccer boots/scrum cap”.

The Breakfast Conundrum and Alien Abductions

Then, we dive into the ‘Breakfast Conundrum.’ With his unwavering devotion to oats or toast, Alex is simple enough unless the aliens have decided to abduct him overnight and turn him into that mid-hibernating bear. Those days when Alex wakes up point-blank, refusing to eat, dress, or even consider a toothbrush, are the toughest trials of parental patience. The 9-year-old will eat anything, thank goodness. While the teenager is starting to ask for eggs and avo – let’s just say I have requested he adds cooking shows to his Youtube video-watching repertoire.

Lunchbox Roulette

I scroll lunch-box making videos on Instagram just like the next Mum. With the cut-out sandwiches and heart-shaped cucumbers. I even imagine myself doing these things. In reality – lunch box time is simply one of my worst tasks… who’s with me here? Because just when you think you’ve conquered the breakfast mountain, it’s time for ‘Lunchbox Roulette.’ With each son having his own specific lunch preferences, I sometimes feel like I’m running a personalised catering service. And if someone (read: hubby) has got stuck into the lunch box snacks the night before, and I have limited lunch box filler options, making sure the kids have enough to eat is even more challenging.

And there are other things to consider that people don’t think about. Does the apple fit into the too-expensive Bento lunch box I bought because of my Instagram scrolling? No, it does not. Will my kids eat it if I cut it up and squeeze lemon on it to stop it from browning? Of course not. So if I replace it with a banana, will my kids eat the rest of their food that now smells and tastes like said banana? Don’t be silly.

Welcome to the mental load of lunches.

The Great Bag Marathon

The clock is ticking, and we now face the ‘Great Bag Marathon.’ School bags, sports kits, devices – each son with his own mini mountain of baggage to be hauled to the car. I have a mental checklist I go through as they pass through the door to ensure they have everything with them.

While I am trying to give my new teenager the responsibility of remembering his own things, old habits die hard, and I can’t seem to help myself from double-checking on his items too.

The Three-School Juggle and the Time Warp

Then, my husband embarks on the ‘Three-School Juggle.’ Yep, all three are at different schools/campuses, so the logistics feel more like organising a city-wide relay race. And did I mention Tyler’s unique ability to slow down time when I utter the words, “You’re going to be late?” The schools also start at different times for each child, so these drop-offs must be planned out precisely.

However, that is when I pass on the baton to my husband and take that giant sip of fresh hot coffee in a silent house.

And then I think typical Mum thoughts (which is Mother Nature’s way of making sure we get up and do it all over again the following day) that despite the chaos, there are moments of pure magic worth cherishing each morning. Moments when Tyler shares his latest gaming obsession over a protein-infused breakfast, when Alex gives me his signature toothy grin over his bowl of oats, or when Tiago, finally uniform-correct and lunchbox-loaded, flashes me a victorious thumbs-up before penguin-walking out the door.

Surviving the Morning Rush

So, how do we survive this kaleidoscope of chaos, you may ask? The answer – humour, a whole lot of patience, and an unspoken yearning for wine at breakfast.

But seriously, I know you might be thinking, surely, there must be some way to bring a semblance of order to this chaotic morning routine? And you’re right. While humour and patience are my faithful companions, and while my longing for a breakfast wine remains unfulfilled, over time, I’ve gathered a collection of tips and tricks that help restore some sanity.

Here are some that might just make your mornings a little less hair-raising:

  • Preparation is key:  Pack bags, sort uniforms, and plan meals the night before. This will save you precious time in the morning and eliminate the scramble to find that missing soccer boot or school textbook.
  • Uniform baskets: Have a dedicated basket for each child’s uniform. Keep their PE kits, sports gear, and regular uniforms separate to avoid mix-ups.
  • Create a schedule: Have a visual schedule with each child’s activities for the week. This helps keep track of who needs to wear what and when.
  • Menu planning: Involve the kids in planning their lunch menus for the week. This will not only ensure that they eat what’s packed but also make them feel involved in the process.
  • Easy access breakfast: Keep breakfast simple and accessible. For Alex, that means a toast station he can handle himself.
  • Vitamin incentives: For reluctant vitamin takers like Tyler, offer a healthy incentive like a fruit of his choice after the vitamin.
  • Alarm clock responsibility: Encourage older kids like Tyler to take responsibility for their own wake-up times. This can instil a sense of independence and reduce one task from your list.
  • Divide and conquer: If you have a partner, divide morning tasks between you. One can manage breakfast while the other ensures everyone’s dressed and ready.
  • Emergency fun kit: For days when the aliens have abducted Alex, I keep a stash of his favourite toys handy to distract him enough to eat and dress.

And finally, remind yourself that it’s okay if every morning isn’t perfect. Some days will be harder than others. On those days, take a deep breath, and remember, you’re doing a great job. Each morning might still feel like running a marathon, but with these tips in your toolkit, hopefully, you’ll cross the finish line with a little more breath to spare!

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