Back to School: Tips for Survival/Part I

It’s back to school…and so it begins. Monday morning mayhem. You know the drill. Get breakfast on the table, kids dressed and out the door.

And I have to get myself ready for a 9:30 a.m. meeting. No easy feat. I burn the waffles, but while I put a new set in the toaster, I manage to locate a pants suit that fits nicely. My lucky blouse has a grape juice stain so I rifle through the closet and pull a white silk shirt out of the dry cleaning plastic. Yet thinking better of it, I throw on a T-shirt until the last minute.

The waffles are on the table and the kids are chomping away. I put on my makeup and start to gather my things and thoughts for the work day ahead. Realizing I’m starving, I throw a breakfast bar in my purse.

Just when I think I have achieved the impossible and we are ready to go, my toddler starts crying. She doesn’t want to wear her rain boots. Did I mention it’s pouring?

“Rebecca, put your boots on,” I scold. I know you know what’s coming next.

“No.” Her favorite word.



“Rebecca, we’re going to be late.” I can feel myself getting mad.


Even though I know what I’m doing is not working and toddlers have no concept of tardiness, I can’t break out of the power struggle. Then, luckily, my husband walks into the room.

“Rebecca, come sit here.” He lifts her up and sits her down on the bench next to her boots.

“Let me see something. Open your mouth.” Rebecca complies. “Did you know there’s a frog in your mouth? They come out when it rains.”

“Really. A green frog?” Her eyes widen.

“Yes. As a matter of fact, he is green. Will you look at that, he has his friend the rabbit with him. They’re having a great time in there.”

“What are they doing?”

“They’re making cupcakes.”

“Purple cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles?” She keeps talking while he starts to put on her boots.

“Let me see.” He looks in her mouth. “Right now they are having a discussion because Rabbit likes pink cupcakes and Frog likes purple.”

Just like that, all was forgotten and we were out the door. When you add something unexpected to the mix, it immediately pulls everyone out of where they are (including you!) and brings them to someplace new. It acts as a fun distraction where futile fighting comes to a screeching halt.

When school starts, sleep is imperative. And I’m a huge believer in routine. But, of course, early in the week, Rebecca refuses to settle down. But just before she starts crying—threatening to wake her baby sister—I lie down next to her. “How about a game?” I whisper. I know she was expecting me to demand quiet.

“A game?” she asks confused.

“It’s called I’m Going to the Beach,” I answer softly. “I’ll start. I’m going to the beach and I’m going to bring my bucket. Now you go.”

“I’m going to the beach and I’m going to bring my shovel.”

I can see her smiling in the dark. And I breathe a sigh of relief. After a few turns each, I let her know the game is coming to an end. “You have three more turns and I have two left.” When the game is over, she settles in and I leave the room promising to return to check on her.

I mention this game whenever she has trouble sleeping, but now it’s always “a new game”– I’m going to a restaurant; I’m going to the playground; I’m going to fly a kite; I’m going to play with a doll….the variations are endless.

Deliver a surprising solution both soothes or distracts — and, it works!

These days our kids’ lives are programmed; it’s hard to find room for spontaneity. A surprise in the routine will undoubtedly make things run smoother and add an element of unexpected joy. Time flies, we might as well be having fun.


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