All parents everywhere know how challenging the school run can be. It has the power to turn the most sensible and reasonable grown-up into a quivering mess. What is it about those first few hours of the day? They bewitch us and we end up barking one syllable words over and over again at our children…”SHOES!” “TEETH!” “COAT!”
Honestly, if anyone saw me in the morning trying to hustle Bailey out the door, there is no way they would think I was an advocate for slow living.
I am convinced that time is actually faster for those early morning hours. Every day, without fail, minutes seem to disappear.
We are just approaching the end of our fist whole term of school, and already I can’t wait for a few weeks off, just so we don’t have to do the school run.
It’s all very well loving a bit of slow parenting at the weekend when you don’t have any plans and don’t have to be anywhere by a specific time. Realistically though, how do you get a four year old out the front door, first thing, in a calm and grounded fashion.
For those new to the term slow parenting the idea is that you let your child explore the world at their own pace. By not organising too many activities after school, your child has the freedom to simply play, hang out, and even get bored.
Bailey has absolutely no sense of time or urgency. She doesn’t know how to rush or hurry, and has no qualms at stopping half way through putting her shoes on to roll around the floor. Or, as she did the other morning, put on her swimming goggles and pretend to front crawl around the bathroom. The fact that I am standing there visibly frustrated or whizzing around her at a mile a minute doesn’t even seem to register.
Part of me loves that she is innocently in her own little world not being concerned with the time. She is one of the reasons for our slow living journey and often reminds me to be more present and take pleasure in the little things.
Whilst I love that slow parenting supports that Bailey explore the world at her own pace, I think she also needs to learn to take responsibility for getting herself ready. It’s good for her to understand that it’s polite to be on time, and for that, you need to have an awareness of what the time is, and what needs to be done.
I know with little ones, that when time is tight in the morning you don’t always have the luxury to let them do everything for themselves. We have all had those mornings when you are in such a hurry that it’s so tempting to tie your child’s shoes, or get them dressed. Whilst this unavoidable some of the time, when you can, isn’t it better to let them struggle with things themselves? After all, this is how they learn, grow and gain independence. If we takeover and sort out all their problems for them, then we are not equipping them to deal with any challenges that arise, or the unpredictabilty of life.
As well as Bailey adapting, I also think there are things I can do to make our mornings flow more smoothly. For example, I am sure there are unhelpful behavioural habits that I fall back on when I feel like we are late. It’s not really helpful for me to get flustered or panic – it doesn’t get us out the door any quicker. Perhaps I could be a little more relaxed and stay calm even when my patience is being tried.
I would really like our morning routine to change next term. Otherwise, I am worried we will spend the next eight years having a frantic school run, and neither of us want that. Plus, if Bailey watches me rush and flap most mornings, surely she will eventually copy my behaviour.
I have been having a little think about some actionable things we can do in the morning to make things easier.
Five things to help with slow parenting and the school run…
- Start the day the right way – By making sure I have a little time to myself first thing to wake up slowly I can set the tone for the day. It will mean I have to set my alarm clock a little earlier but even just 10 minutes to breathe and stretch will get me in the right headspace for the day ahead.
- Silliness buffer – Our morning routine needs to have a 10 minute buffer for any silliness. That way when something occurs (which it undoubtedly will) I know I have time set aside to deal with it. This will help me to take a moment and stay calm.
- Take a step back – When you’re in the middle of one of those situations (you know the ones I mean), try distancing yourself from the problem. Imagine zooming out of your body, above your house, above your street, and high up into the sky so the Earth looks small. This is a mediation technique lots of people use to help them gain some perspective, and remove themselves from the emotional stress of a situation.
- Smile and take a breath – Both of these things will help you to relax. I know it seems like an impossibility to be relaxed whilst ushering your child / children off to school, but try it and see.
- Encourage autonomy in your child – By giving them the responsibility to do certain tasks in your morning routine, you will empower them with confidence by helping them feel independent.
Like anything, we all need to find the right balance for our families and do what feels comfortable. I am hopeful that the five things above will help our mornings feel calmer, and that by doing a little slow parenting first thing I might even enjoy the school run some days. After all, it is time with my little girl, and at the moment she wants to hold my hand, sing me songs and tell me funny things about her day – that’s all good stuff.
If you are a seasoned school runner and have some brilliant tips please feel free to share them. I would love to know what works for you.