For the first time in many weeks, the alarm clock on the other side of the bed rang. Still mostly asleep, I ignored its initial screaming as my beautiful, devout wife smacked it silent (several times).
After two months of leaving a quiet house, a half-sleeping wife, fully sleeping kids and a dog who’s always in my way, no matter the time or place, all that changed this week. My kids — and my teacher wife — are back to school. And my mornings are back to chaos.
(As a note of self-preservation: My wife, Erin, who leaves home later than I do and has to drive our sixth-grader, third-grader and kindergartener to school, has it way worse than I do. She actually has to get them out the door with their shoes and lunches and backpacks — and her sanity — in order.)
If you have a Facebook account, you can tell it's back-to-school time by the endless stream of adorable First Day of School pictures — kids posing with their new clothes and new backpacks and new shoes. Those are nice, but my Facebook friends didn’t get to see my three decked out in their uniforms (matching red Polo shirts and navy shorts. Side note: uniforms are the best).
With camera in-hand (and running late), my wife was shoving kids out the door and getting them ready to line up for the photo when Jacob — the 5-year-old, the rotten-but-cute one — decided to throw a fit. He hurt his hand (apparently) and figured that 6:55 a.m. — five minutes before they needed to be at school and 25 minutes before my wife needed to be at a different school — would be an ideal time to soak his injured paw in a Tupperware bowl full of warm water. In no uncertain terms, his mother told him no, causing him obvious emotional and physical anguish. While this was the first crisis of the new school year, my guess is that it will not be the last.
And here’s the crazy part: We had a full week of early morning preparation. The week before school starts, we put the kids to bed early and get them up earlier, so the first day of school isn’t a shock to their little lazy systems. My son Grant — the 9-year-old — even went so far as to suggest we needed to bring back waffles (his every-morning breakfast last year) a week early, so, as he put it, “I can get back into my waffle routine.” (Side note that Grant is unaware of: We’re banning waffles and syrup this year, because: sugar. You’re welcome, teacher.)
And as harried as the mornings are, the evenings aren’t much better. Soon, we’ll be contending with volleyball practices and games and piano lessons and swim schedules. We’ll again be scrambling for dinner. Our kids’ bedtime becomes a pipe dream. It’s like we draw a line in the sand only to have life erase our perfect 8:30 line with its stupid foot. Our 9:00 and 9:30 lines are also demolished. We could have them in their pajamas with teeth brushed by 7 p.m., and it would still be 10 by the time their heads hit their pillows, because heaven forbid if they planned ahead to get a drink of water, pee, turn on their nightlight, their fan, etc.
Speaking of nightly routines and back to school, I was asked to write a short piece for OSV Parish’s publication Take Out on getting busy families back in the swing of their prayer lives. In the article, I offered the following tips: schedule your prayer time; lean on books, websites and movies for help; prayer shouldn’t just a litany of wants, so be thankful; pray in the car; and, lastly, take some time a few nights a week to explain the Faith to your children and let them ask questions.
After writing the article weeks ago, I recently brought the new Take Out home to show my wife. She read through the article and was very complimentary of my writing and my ideas. “Now,” she said, “we should probably start doing these things.”
And so we will try.
I know that I need to relax a little more and rush my kids a little less. We need to turn off the TV and open the Bible more often. I need to realize that our prayer life as a family isn’t something to hurry through so I can get an extra 15 minutes of peace and quiet.
And, among other, more important things, we will pray that our mornings will be picture-perfect for the next nine months.
If you have any tips on how to make mornings go more smoothly or nights more prayerful, please share them in the comments. (Seriously, please.)
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.