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Two Minute Warning

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 01/25/08
The ride to Olivia and Hailey’s Preschool takes two minutes. In that short amount of time we have our best discussions. Every school day morning we hustle out the door and to my car. I strap ‘em in their seat belts, unwrap then handout chewy granola bars, I get in, pull out of the driveway and I say, “Does anyone have any questions for daddy today?”
Before I finish asking the question, preemptively Hailey will say, “I gotta go potty!”
Olivia will quickly correct her younger sister, “that’s not a question Hailey!”
A brief silence follows and then Olivia will throw the first question out.
 
Monday morning:
Olivia: “Are you going to die daddy?”
Me: “One day Honey, nobody lives forever.” Small pause. “Well sweetie, that’s what life is. You live and then you die.” Silence. “Everyone, everything, eventually expires.”
Olivia: “Where will you go daddy?”
Me: “We all go back to God Honey and we will be with all our relatives who have passed away.”
Hailey, with a hint of worry: “Don’t go Daddy.”
Me: “Don’t worry Kiddos, hopefully, daddy will be around for a long time”
Olivia: “When is our new playground (for the preschool) going to be finished Daddy?” She inquired as we drove by the construction site and pulled into the parking lot of their school.
 
Wednesday Morning: (Tuesday is daddy day, no school).
Olivia: “Is Father Sky the same as god?”
This was a tricky one and I didn’t think two minutes was enough time to explain the theory’s of First People’s (Native American) beliefs. “Sort of Sweetie.”
Olivia: “What about Mother Earth?” I tell Olivia and Hailey a handful of times throughout the day not to waste Mother Earth’s precious resources. Switch the lights off, don’t let the water run, recycle, those sorts of things.
Me: “Well Honey, God created Mother Earth.”
Olivia: “And Father Sky too?”
Me: “Yes Sweetie, God created everything in the universe”
Olivia: “What’s the Universe?”
Me: “It is everything we know honey. All the stars, our sun, the planets, the Earth, everything.”
Olivia: “Everything?”
Me: “Yup. Everything.” Momentary pause. “Hey look, the diggers are all lined up in a row today.”
 
Thursday morning:
Olivia: “When are we going to the Hairy Elephant with Aunt Marni?” Marni is a friend of Kim’s and the Hairy Elephant is a kids’ salon. When Marni came to visit Kim in the hospital during her recovery from the birth of Elizabeth Rose, Marni had told Kim that she would take Olivia and Hailey to get their hair and nails done. This promise was sparked due to a missed birthday party at a different kids’ salon because Olivia had chicken pox. The salon date with Marni was supposed to be this past weekend and she had to cancel the hair and nail appointment.  Rewind one week, Tony, Marni’s husband had switched jobs and the company he was hired on too lost its two biggest clients on Tony’s first day of work. They had to let Tony go. Financially concerned, Marni opted for a play date at her house with her two boys Spenser and Tyler.
Me: “Well Sweetie, you and Hailey went to Marni’s house to play with Spenser and Tyler instead of going to the Hairy Elephant.”
Olivia: “But I wanted to go to the Hairy Elephant.”
Me: “Marni had to cancel the appointment Honey.” Silence. “Well sweetie, Uncle Tony lost his job and now they don’t have money.” Quiet. “They have to be able to buy food and pay for their house and pay for heat to stay warm.” Olivia has been drilled on the economics of why Kim and I have to work.
Olivia: “I will give Aunt Marni my Tzedakah” Tzedakah is charity. Olivia and Hailey put spare change into their own hand painted Tzedakah boxes as part of our traditional Friday night Shabbat dinner. Just last week we noticed how heavy the Tzedakah boxes were getting and had discussed what charities were worth giving too.
Hailey:  “I will give my Tzedakah to Tyler”
Me: “That is a great idea Kiddos, you guys are so thoughtful,” I was so proud of them and their idea, I wanted to go on and on and tell them what caring, sweet and compassionate little girls they are, but instead, “Hey look, the diggers are still lined up.”
 
The two minute drive to preschool is the most anticipated part of my day. What will tomorrow’s conversation be? I’m not sure, but I am looking forward to it.

Work It Mommy

Kim cried the night before reclaiming her status of working mom. She wept for Elizabeth Rose; not leaving the baby for more than an hour in two months, the anticipation of a severed attachment caused deep emotional and physical pain. One may have thought by the amount of tear fall that it was more wrenching than Elizabeth’s forced removal via cesarean section.

Kim bellowed at the thought of going back to work after six months. A consistent employment she has maintained for over thirteen years. The company is one of the few fortune 500 companies in our city and there are many benefits for full time employees. The corporation itself is great however her old boss was someone that Kim could no longer work with. Luckily while Kim was away on her extended maternity leave the department she worked in jostled a few positions around and Kim was on the receiving end of a promotion and would be under new management. Had the position change not occurred this journal entry may have been about a new stay at home mom.

There were many other concerns Kim mulled over the night before returning to work. One of which, for monetary reasons, we had to adjust the amount of preschool our girls attend, from three full days and one half day to four half days, 9am to 3pm. This meant that on two of those days Kim would have to wake up at 4:30am so she could work an eight hour shift and then pick-up the children at two different preschools. Kim also worried that I would have problems juggling the morning routine solo and getting the kiddos at preschool on time. Rightfully so, as the first week’s adaptation to mommy morning absence resulted in missing the curb side drop off every single day. The following week I made the necessary modifications to get everyone to school on time; got out of bed a bit earlier, had breakfast waiting for the kiddos, had a bottle warmed for baby, woke the kiddos earlier and had their backpacks stocked and parked by the back door awaiting our departure.

Two weeks later, two working parents later, Kim’s tears have subsided, the bank account replenished (three of the six months that Kim was on maternity leave was unpaid) and the kiddos may even be happier spending less time at school and more time with mom and dad. Although I can’t speak for Elizabeth Rose. She seems to be doing well at day care. She eats the same, sleeps the same and poops the same, so it is hard to tell at this point whether she is innocuous to the change.

Elizabeth Rose and MeElizabeth Rose is doing great. She consistently sleeps through the night. Smiles when she sees familiar faces. Makes bubbles with her tongue and lips. Kicks and swings for dangling objects. The tumultuous four hour of colic a day has subsided to a mere fifteen minute 9pm fussy phase. She has added 2 pounds and 3 inches of size. Her back is strong and she holds her head high at great lengths while sitting up watching her big sisters or possibly watching out for them.

Dirty Ending

Kim leaves for work early, typically before the rest of us wake up, therefore she tiptoes around all morning being as quiet as possible. She switches the alarm clock off before it sounds, starts the shower, rattles the curtains, drops the soap at least once, shuts the water off, the curtains jingle again, she drums the toilet paper spinning the roll quickly out, flushes the toilet, scrubs her teeth, swishes, spits, the hairdryer hums for at least fifteen minutes, the medicine cabinet opens with a squeak and shuts with a bang, her make-up-tackle-box has a similar creak and pop sound, the bathroom lights flood, the closet light shines, she slips into her carefully selected clothes, the grind and brew coffee maker takes off from the kitchen runway, the toaster oven bell dings, the fridge door slams clattering all the contents inside, then she sneaks into the bedroom one last time to breathe in my ear, “ok babe, I got to go.” Lying in bed half-sleeping I can’t help but hear and sense her actions. Really, she is highly stealthy getting ready for work and her hour long grooming is a time for me to mentally prepare for the day.

 

Within minutes of Kim’s departure, Hailey wakes from her slumber. Relentlessly she calls for me “Daddieeee” until I brightly enter her room.

“Did somebody wake-up?” Gambling that my cheerfulness will be reciprocated. “Hailey woke-up, yea. How is my little girl today?”

“Mommy up?” Every morning she inquires.

“Mommy’s at work sweetie.” I console.

“Sissy up?”

“Sissy is still sleeping.” I whisper.

“Mimi up?” She methodically interrogates. Mimi is our dog. We work though the cats, Haskle and Kyle. She may even through in Bubbie or Nana or a cousin.

At last she eagerly declares, “Daddy up!”

Once out of her crib, I swap her saturated diaper for a fresh pull-up with pit-crew quickness. Lately she has been requesting her “(r)obe,” must be because I have been wearing mine. We get her milk, turn-on Dora, settle into our armchair and I’ll comb and style her hair, usually into some kind of pony. We get a few minutes to snuggle before I go rouse Olivia.

“Is it a daddy day?” Olivia’s first of a thousand questions for the day.

“Today is a school day.” I try to sound upbeat. She is only three and already prefers not going to school. “You’re going to have so much fun with your friends today.” Desperate to get her energized. “Today you’re going swimming.” Or “You get to do music today.” I’ll try whatever is on her preschool activity list for the day. I want to say, “You get to drive daddy’s car today.”

“Hmf” she sighs and pulls the covers over herself. “Is three the new thirteen?”

“We do carpool today?” From under the covers comes the second of a thousand. (Carpool means it’s a half-day and I pick-up early).

“Today is Monday” or “Wednesday” or “Friday” The toughest deadline I cope with is getting the girls to preschool before the breakfast cut-off, eight forty-five. Since Tuesday is a ‘daddy day’ and Thursday is a half-day, those mornings are not so hectic. “C’mon sweetie let’s get some underwear on.” She’s not yet night trained.

“You get Cinderella’s (character underwear) for me my daddy?” She slithers into her undies, then we go lay on the couch where she has some juice and watches Diego. I comb her hair and fashion it into a twisted-dirty-bun or Pocahontas-braids.

After ten or fifteen minutes I’ll request that everyone go pick-out some clothes and get dressed for school. Before potty-training, before wardrobe independence, before Hailey’s favorite phrase, “no! I do it!” There was a time when it only took an average of forty-five minutes to ready both girls and get them to school. Now, we struggle for an hour and a half.

 

Hailey is so picky about her clothes, she is a t-shirt and shorts kind of girl and if there is no clean yellow shirt for her to wear I am in for an ear-full. A major firestorm occurred a few weeks ago over switching from shorts to pants. Hailey was thrashing with rage at the mention of stretchy-pants on that first cold autumn morning. I attempted to coax her into the pants for a half hour, she kept refusing, we had to get going and I practically sat on top of her while wrestling the pants on. I felt like a fashion-goon.

Once the girls have chosen their apparel and have dressed themselves, taking approximately twenty to thirty minutes, its time to brush teeth and wash faces. They both have to do it all unaided, squeeze the paste out, brush, rinse, and return the brushes to the holder. Then, dampen their face-cloths, ring them out, pretend the wash-cloth is a hat and as I supervise, they must be reminded of every facial feature to cleanse. This is a twenty minute procedure.

Their self-sufficiency continues as it is time to get shoes and socks on. I would like to personally thank the inventor of Velcro strap shoes. Olivia is rather good now only taking five minutes to get her shoes and socks on, but Hailey strains with her socks refusing any assistance finally giving up asking for help only after her sister has both shoes and socks on. If I loosen the straps without her noticing prior to her attempts she can get the shoes on herself rather quickly.

“Time to line-up.” We are almost out the door when Olivia decides she has to go potty and of course Hailey follows suit. Oh and then they have to fish through the craft tub to obtain stickers for their friends at school. At last we are ready and getting into the car only takes another ten minutes. They both must climb in the Forester and into their child-safety-seats themselves too.

 

Every morning I do my best not to rush them. Try my hardest not to get upset with all the set-backs, accidents and procrastination. I remember to praise their successes, congratulating them for cooperation and helpful compliance. I realize that expending the time and effort of teaching self-reliance in the present will be beneficial in the near future, in spite of that, the concept of “we are running late!” only concerns me.

 

The drive to preschool is short; we live a couple miles away. Most mornings I will call Kim and put the cell phone on speaker mode so the girls can chitchat. As we pull into the parking lot we discus any problems that need addressing, for instance, “Hailey I would like for you to keep your clothes on all day today, ok sweetie.”

Fortunately both girls are beyond separation anxiety so drop-off usually goes well. Hailey is hungry by the time we get to her class room, she drops her back pack and jacket in front of her locker, I have to ask her to put her things where they belong and she tells me “daddy do it” then without any further ado she says her goodbyes and heads to the breakfast table.

 

Olivia has particular superstitious ‘drop-off’ rituals that if broken lead to ‘make-dad-feel-awful-for-leaving-me-here’ melt-downs. Her class room is located in another building on the schools’ campus so we have to walk over to the ‘big building’. We acquire a secure-card from the admin assistant’s desk, leaving my keys as collateral. Olivia must carry the ‘blue card’ to the other building and perform the magic of unlocking the outside door by gliding the security-card in front of the black sensor box. Once inside, there is a small vestibule and another set of doors with a ten-key-pad security lock to enter the building, she must be the one to press the correct combination of keys to unlock the door. “Maxwell Smart in training” Most mornings she shyly enters the class room behind me, sometimes attached to my leg. I promptly sign her in and remind her to put her back-pack and jacket in her locker. I can’t leave yet. I have to stay while she washes her hands and shows me how she gets her own breakfast put together. She scoops the cereal out of a gallon-sized plastic zip-lock bag into a foam bowl, pours the milk from a two quart measuring cup, spoons caned mixed fruit onto a six inch styrofoam plate, carefully carrying the bowl of cereal she finds the preschooler-sized-seat with her name on the back and makes a couple trips to the prep-table for her fruit and drink. Then she needs a big ‘pick me up and hold me for a couple minutes’ hug before she excuses me.

 

Leaving my baby girls for the day is psychologically muddy, slowly walking back to my car, involuntarily fumbling around in my pockets for keys which I have left on the admin assistant’s desk, I feel exhausted from another frenzied morning, relief that we got to school on time and liberated from parental duty yet sorrowful and empty; a part of me is left behind.

 

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 10/05/06

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