habit shift: morning people.

September 5, 2018

I’m a morning person. A slow, leisurely kind of morning person. A morning person who doesn’t want to be rushed out of bed. I’ll pad to the bathroom bright and early, but my goodness, that doesn’t mean I’m ready for action. No, I’m a morning person who likes to climb back under the covers with a cup of coffee and a book. I’m a savor-the-morning kind of person. An I’ll-bother-with-breakfast-in-a-while-just-let-me-sit-in-silence-for-a-bit-kind-of-person. I’m happy if there’s a bit of quiet music. Better if there’s just birdsong. Eventually, a bit of news. My trouble isn’t mornings, just the scarcity of the particular kind of morning that I love.

The most obviously tricky part of mornings in a family, is that it’s not just about the whims and wishes of one person. Duh. There’s a whole team of moods and habits and needs to navigate. And try as I might to maintain my own personal sphere of calm and quietude, last week I was so committed to enjoying my cup of coffee quietly on the couch that I was wholly caught of guard by a catapulting toddler and managed to send the entirety of my mug splattering onto the couch. (Thank goddess for slipcovers.)

This week marks the first day of school for Faye and Silas. We’re all really excited, but I’ve been trying to psyche myself up for the early morning wrangling. I know how getting out of the house goes when we don’t have anywhere particular to be: By the time we’ve managed to pack up essentials, belabor which hole in the sandal strap is the correct hole in the sandal strap for inserting in a buckle, gone back inside to pee, taken one last bite of plum, given up on taking down the recycling, and finished our negotiations about which child will get carried down four flights, I feel like I’ve run a marathon and I haven’t even hoisted the enormous stroller out of the building yet.* 

Last week, I read KJ Dell-Antonia’s new book, How To Be A Happier Parent and her first chapter on morning routines was particularly comforting for me right now. It’s a welcome thing to hear another parent admit that they don’t spring forth from their slumber ready to whip up a gourmet breakfast and sing a rousing rendition of She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain. More than that, her words offered a bit of encouragement and a few practical reminders:

To know how long the walk to school actually takes, and count backward from there, for instance.

To embrace my own favorite childhood practice, and lay out outfits and backpacks and other necessities the night before.

To empty dishwashers before bed, not before breakfast.

To turn off tech—not a reminder for our kids so much as their parents. (I love you all, but answering morning queries about which scooter my children ride or which sandals they wear can wait. (See also!))

Mostly this sweet reminder:

“This is your time to be the people you are together, and that matters more than the clock or the forgotten algebra assignment. That doesn’t mean you don’t keep making things happen or you aren’t still going to hold the child assigned to empty the dishwasher to her job. It just means that there really is something to enjoy in the mornings…Mornings are still the worst. But they’re also part of the best. We get one a day, every day, until they’re gone.”

Here’s to better mornings, friends.

* Speaking of strollers: We’re gearing up to sell our large double stroller. If anyone is local and considering one, let me know! It was a lifesaver for us when we got it, and it’s in great condition.

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links. 

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  • Reply Becky September 5, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    “We get one a day, every day, until they’re gone.” ❤️❤️

  • Reply Maryann September 5, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    That last reminder – “your time to be the people you are together” – is so sweet. Mornings are not my strong suit. Your version of a nice morning sounds lovely! I tend to get frazzled and harried. I’ve been trying to slowly change my ways – not that I will ever excel at mornings but just accept more gracefully that we will sometimes forget stuff, be late and leave the house a mess. I really like that passage.

  • Reply Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 September 5, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    I love this post! We return to preschool tomorrow and are struggling with night-training our 3yo twins (a little regression and so. much. laundry), and I needed this post today.

  • Reply Helen September 5, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    We never get to preschool early (there’s a window for dropoff) and I used to feel guilty (like, I should be prioritizing my work more! Look at all the people who get there promptly when they open), but then I realized that sitting together every morning for breakfast is truly a gift and one of my favorite times with my kids. So I embrace our languid mornings. Once real school has started, however, it will be a different matter…

    • Reply Sasha L September 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm

      As a preschool teacher (I run a small in home preschool) I just want to throw out that most children don’t need *more* time at preschool. We open at 7:30 and close at 5:15, to accommodate parents’ work schedules, not the needs of children. That would look more like 9-3, but if course there has to be a balance because parents have real needs too (to hold full time employment for example). Anyway, please don’t feel bad if your child is getting less time at preschool, I’m sure the extra time with you is very wonderful for all of you.

  • Reply Kari September 5, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    We were very lucky, in that my husband is a morning person and I’m a night person. He was mostly in charge of getting the kids fed and off to school and I was mostly in charge of bedtime routines and kids who wake in the night.

  • Reply Liz September 5, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Yes! This is so well put. I’ve never thought about mornings this way but it is exactly how I feel. I struggle EVERY morning. I have morphed from super grumpy, in denial about starting my day at 6am to June cleaver making waffles, but begrudgingly. I’m working on training my kids to give proper greetings and waiting 5 minutes before making requests. I also hold off on the coffee until the kids are busy enough that I have 5 minutes to savor it. #constantbattle

    • Reply Sasha L September 6, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      Liz, five minutes until requests!! That is brilliant. Five WHOLE minutes this should be mandatory.

  • Reply Lin September 5, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    When my children were preschool age, we would lay out their clothing, including underthings, socks and shoes, in the shape of a flat person on the floor at night. We even called it Flat Thomas or whoever. It seemed to speed up the dressing struggle and they weirdly never changed their minds about what to wear when they woke up

  • Reply elaine September 5, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    this is what you do so well. remind us what matters. thank you.

  • Reply Lexy September 5, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    Love your entryway setup with the hooks and ledge! Where is the ledge from?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 6, 2018 at 7:56 am

      It was from West Elm, years ago, and we painted it white! This one is really similar!

  • Reply MissEm September 5, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    My husband works super early so it is just me in the mornings, and I used to wake up feeling dread and anxiety and snapping at the kids. Finally I decided I had to become a morning person so i started waking up at 5:45 (something I once vowed I would never do). I make the bed, make myself coffee, and read, then I open all the curtains and turn on quiet music and let the kids start to stir awake while I get dressed. I legitimately started looking forward to mornings.

  • Reply Ana September 6, 2018 at 9:39 am

    That quote gave me all the feels!
    Thank you for sharing, beautiful piece.

  • Reply Sasha L September 6, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Erin, reading this beautiful piece I realize how much a morning like you describe appeals to me, but I never even think to do it. Years of getting kids ready, getting myself to work trained me so well that I don’t have a slow morning even when I can now. I work four days a week, from home, which is lovely for mornings (no trying to remember every single thing I’ll need for the day, packing lunch, etc) and I have three days I could be drinking tea and reading in bed and taking my time. Starting new happy routine tomorrow!

  • Reply Laura September 6, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    have reserved that book at my local library – sounds good!! thanks for sharing x

  • Reply Trish O September 7, 2018 at 8:02 am

    My boys are in high school, but they still need a morning routine. Almost more, as teens tend to be night owls and struggle to get to class by 7:30 am. That said, I also am a slow morning person. I have taken to getting up at 5:30, watching the news and drinking my coffee. 6 am, I wake up the boys. They have an alarm, yes. They basically do on their own, yes. But I still wake them with kisses and hugs. They grimace and scowl. I tell them when they are an adult, they will remember this fondly, and if they don’t I will. Anyway, it is important for me to take a moment of calm with coffee before the day gets into swing.

  • Reply Betsy September 9, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    I’m local and interested in the stroller! Let me know if it hasn’t been spoken for already. Would love to get one used (as we’ve done for most of our baby gear thus far, inspired by you!).

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 10, 2018 at 8:20 am


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