On school days, there are three solid hours from the time my three kids wake up to the time we leave the house to bring my oldest son to school. Three hours is a long time to wait to feel like you really get your day started. It’s not a long time because we’re bored though. It’s long because so much chaos happens in that amount of time! Can you relate?
My oldest two kids want breakfast right when they wake up. Then there’s some iPad time. After they get dressed and brush their teeth, they might play Uno together, have a Nerf battle, color or read. But that all sounds too easy. Let’s be real here. One of my kids is probably mad at me for requiring a healthy breakfast, they’re arguing over whose turn it is to brush their teeth first, someone claims that they can’t find ANY clean underwear in their dresser, and the baby probably had a terrible diaper that needed changing.
Speaking of that baby, he is now eating solid food at mealtimes, so in addition to feeding him, I also get to clean yogurt off the curtains, floor, windows, and every inch of his body after breakfast. (He could really use a bath, but ugh, that just seems like a lot of unnecessary work at 7am.)
Mornings have been busy and chaotic, and I was tired of feeling wiped out by the time I brought my son to school. I was tired of my kids fighting. I was tired of taking their iPad time away for poor behavior. I was tired of rushing my kids out the door and feeling like a failure mom because we had three whole hours to prepare for it! Something needed to change, but I wasn’t sure what had to happen.
A few months ago, I read a chapter in Shauna Niequist’s book, Present Over Perfect, about her husband bringing home a basketball hoop for the driveway and how it’s changed so much of their family time for the better. She writes:
“And we are just absolutely in love with this beat-up, hand-me-down basketball hoop and its shorter neighbor hoop. On hard mornings, it helps our son’s anxious feelings if we make sure we’re all ready about twenty minutes before the bus comes, and we all go outside together. I shuffle out in my slippers and bedhead, bringing out coffee for Aaron and me. The kids shoot around, and the neighbor kids wander over. By the time the bus comes, the nerves have been shaken off, and our boy runs to the corner, yelping and laughing with the rest of the kids.”
Is that even real? Coffee outside. Happy kids. Sounds great, right? I wanted those basketball mornings with my kids! I became determined to get them outside and find out if we could enjoy our mornings together instead of feeling like they were bound for chaos beginning at 6am. Could I make this happen? Instead of basketball, I decided my older two kids would bike ride and I’d push the baby in his stroller for a walk.
The next morning, we did the breakfast, iPad, getting dressed and arguing over the teeth brushing thing, but after that, I told the kids to get their helmets on because we were going outside. The change in routine surprised them. In a matter of minutes, we were out the door enjoying the crisp morning air and sunshine.
It happened. It really happened, and it was wonderful.
Since that morning, we head out on bike rides before school as often as we can. Like Shauna, I pour hot coffee in my reusable Starbucks cup before leaving the house. (I’m actually drinking hot coffee, Mamas, instead of forgetting about my mug on the counter after disciplining kids.) We ride and walk through our neighborhood. Sometimes we go for longer rides to the park, and some days we do shorter, slower rides. We see neighbors walking their dogs and other neighbors going for their morning runs. We hear birds and watch bunnies. My daughter stops to pick dandelions. My son rides through every mud puddle he can find.
Then we head back home, park the bikes and stroller in the garage, and hop in the car to bring my son to school. We’re doing more with our mornings now, yet they aren’t rushed anymore. We’re happier, the arguing has lessened and we’re making memories by spending quality time together. My son might be going in to school with sweaty helmet hair, but I think he kind of likes it.
With summer quickly approaching, I’m setting a goal to do our morning ride daily after breakfast. And hopefully, we’ll go again after dinner when my husband can join us! For some, it’s shooting hoops in the driveway, and for us, it’s going for bike rides. What’s one change you can make to create more quality family time this summer?