Every school morning, the dawn alarm clock slowly brightens my nine-year-old daughter's bedroom. Then I pad in in my fluffy pink slippers and turn on the really bright light—my therapeutic light for seasonal affective disorder—making sure it’s shining on her face. I open the CD player, replacing last night's Native American flute music with Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers or some big-band swing. And I hit play, selecting a different song each day, since novelty helps wake my daughter up.
This usually gets her stirring. But I have the morning paper in hand, in case she needs extra motivation to open her eyes. I turn off the music and cuddle up next to her, and we read the funnies.
Then I put the clothes she chose the night before up onto her bed, so she can stay warm as she changes. Before I go downstairs to make her lunch, we turn the music back on. The idea is that if she has something interesting to listen to, she’s less likely to pick up something interesting to read instead of completing the boring task of getting dressed. We put on a talking countdown timer too. Although, my daughter just told me, that sort of interrupts the music.
If all goes well, she comes downstairs soon afterward, brushes her hair, and eats something—a hard-boiled egg and some blueberries this morning. And I put the last items into her lunch bag, maybe a package of seaweed snack or a quick five-line poem I wrote about her, inspired by one she wrote at school.
If we're ready on time, we check off five points each on our charts. If we’ve been polite, we get five extra points. When we earn 150 points, we get to choose a fun activity to do together, like miniature golf or dinner at Noodles or a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion.
Whew! So many strategies for being on time! But they do seem to help. And they're certainly more effective than rushing my daughter or yelling at her or getting mad at myself.
But things happen. Instead of getting dressed, my daughter picks up a boxcar-children mystery, her latest Muse magazine, or an old comics page. I decide I have to answer an e-mail about a play date right away so I don’t forget later. She spends a bunch of time trying to put beads in her hair without a beader. I’m low on groceries and take a bunch of time figuring out what I can put in her lunch. It’s snowing, and we can’t find her pink or her blue mittens in the huge pile of clean laundry on the couch or the overflowing launch basket.
It’s amazing how something that sounds so simple—add up how long it takes to do each task and allow that much time—ends up so complicated and stressful. I got my daughter to school a good 15 minutes late several times in the past couple weeks.
In any case, I’m ready to take on anyone who says that people who are late a lot just don’t care. We may not be on time every time. But we’re strategizing like crazy and working our butts off trying!
I put on a Dwight Yoakam record Tuesday afternoon, to listen to while I did some housework. The first song that came on was “Always Late”—how appropriate! Well, sort of. The whole title is “Always Late with Your Kisses.” In any case, here’s a live version:
And here's a snippet of Lefty Frizzell singing the same: