I recently wrote about the miracle of my becoming a morning person. Now, I am happily employed as the parent who wakes up the children, makes their breakfast, packs their lunch and double-checks their cheeks to make sure no toothpaste lingers. While this may sound like no feat whatsoever for all the mothers who do and have done this everyday since their children began school, having been a recent graduate student, those duties have not fallen to me for a few years. Before I began my studies, however, I was the one left tackling the morning duties when Karl left for work at 6:30 AM. However, they looked very different then. Rather than the checklist of preparations involved in getting elementary-aged kids off to school, toddlers require something akin to an acrobatic performance.
As caretakers of tiny people, first we begin the day by drawing up energy to deliver a very singsong greeting to say good morning. Next is a fantastic Cirque du Soleil rendition of getting them out of zip-up footie pajamas, changing their diaper and fully dressed in outfits that require snapping between the legs and elastic waistbands that are never quite stretchy enough. Then, there is the pushing, pulling and shoving physical therapist maneuver required to get squishy jelly piglets into stiff small shoes. All that, and you haven’t even left the nursery, yet. For those of you with young children, it gets easier, I promise. In elementary school, they refuse to wear things that snap between their legs.
Now, since my kids are old enough to do things for themselves, that leaves me with just a bit more space to fill with song, sometimes dance, definitely food, but most importantly, togetherness.
Let me explain.
The song of greeting my children in the morning has turned to whispers. My favorite part is sneaking quietly into their room and crawling under their warm covers to scratch their backs and whisper in their ear a happy good morning while their sleepy heads roll over and mumble back. Then, I move on to the kitchen where while I am preppy and cooking, they are getting themselves ready (Yes, young mothers, there will come a time when your kids will take care of themselves independently without getting into too much trouble). By the time they come out, they are dressed with socks and shoes on and telling me about whatever comes to their mind first thing in the morning. (Yesterday, Peter wanted to remind me of the word we had learned the night before that is the longest recorded in the dictionary: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis; and then proceeded to write it on the white board). I set the table and have everything ready for when Karl comes back from his run and together we sit down to enjoy breakfast. When we begin, the day ahead is new and fresh and exciting. There are squeals of delightful jokes. I have been known to bust out in song and surprisingly the kids join in. Karl is at his wittiest best right after a run. And the BEST part??? I cook the exact same thing every single morning, custom for each person at the table. So, there is no arguing, complaining, rolling of eyes, arms-crossed in protest over what’s for dinner. Because everyone is getting a nutritious breakfast that they love and not changing it up every morning takes stress off me.
Since I often work nights, or a myriad of events interrupt weekday evenings, breakfast is often the only meal where we are all at home together to eat. At first, I thought this flew in the face of research that demonstrates better family stability when dinners are eaten together. However, by trying to follow the letter of the law, I was missing the whole point. It doesn’t have to be dinner! Thankfully, now, other research is coining the term “Family Meals,” which includes lunch on the weekends, brunch after church on Sunday, or Saturday morning bonus breakfasts of pancakes, eggs and bacon. The significance of the research isn’t on which meal of the day (dinner), it’s on eating together anytime.
So, if your family is like mine, and trying to do dinner every night together brings up shame, blame, guilt, anxiety, stress, or otherwise, then make breakfast the new dinner this year. Even if it means getting up a little earlier to do it, I think you will find the sacrifice is worth it.