It was morning and there was an alarm clock involved. The kids were across the hall, both of them nestled deep beneath their respective covers despite the last hurrah of long, hot days still sneaking through the window. The previous week they would have been awake already, knee-deep in video games and skateboards—loud, laughing, and seizing the day like we all wish we would. But those days were gone. It was time for school, and there were snores where action used to be.
The alarm declared that summer was over, regardless of the fight from thermometer or calendar, and I missed its passing, even as I hit snooze and let denial linger five more minutes.
Sleeping in has long been its own reward, but the truth is that few things offer more promise than a fresh, new morning. I may not like getting up early, but when I do I’m always (give or take) happy to be there. The house is cool and comforting, and there is adventure in the air. Reluctant as I am to face it, being forced to rise and meet the morning seldom disappoints. It is amazing what can be done in those hours of soft sunlight, beneath a soundtrack of birds singing, and the echo of stubborn snoring. It is the pregame, the planning, and preparation of a day unfolding.
The boys beg to differ. That is, they don’t mind the hour, but the reason for it. Waking up at 6:30 in the morning to play Disney Infinity is totally fine, but another day of homework and clean underwear? Highly overrated.
And yet they play along.
It is funny how easily one falls back into routine. The trick is finding the routines worth returning.
Every year we go back to school with a backpack full of resolutions: healthier meals, stricter bedtimes, better study habits, and all of those things that sound impressive when making small talk at the PTA meeting…
Then we tweak it, until what we want and what we do are close enough.
We left last school year in a pretty good rhythm. The boys would get up and shower, which put a melancholy, but effective, twist on bath time. I would prepare breakfast while my wife got herself out the door and off to work. Years ago I made the decision not to rely upon the quick parts of a nutritious breakfast. Meaning, we may have the occasional waffle from the toaster, but it will be covered in freshly sliced strawberries with a smoothie on the side—something that the boys often help create, assuming they get dressed in a reasonable amount of time. Then they would eat, while I made their lunch and we went over the needs of the day or discussed whatever jazz was playing in the background. At 7:30 we would walk to their schools together, and then I would run home via the scenic route. Sometimes I left the jazz on. Sometimes I stopped for coffee.
After school was more of the same: a walk in reverse, snack, and play. Then chores, homework, assorted extracurricular activities, and whatever family time we could squeeze, starting with a dinner made together, and ending with a book in one hand or another. Then the rinse. Then the repeat.
It is a framework, our routine, a familiar support that we make sturdier with every passing day; however, it isn’t the frame that is the focus here, but the canvas stretched within it. The school day is an opportunity to learn and laugh, to find answers and to find oneself. It is a time for friendships that may last forever, and math that is seldom seen again. It is a time of their own creating, and if that isn’t art, then I don’t know what is. The canvas is theirs for the filling.
It is pretty incredible when you think about it, and that is what I will do. Every. Single. Morning. The alarm clock helps.
Know any families about to get back into their own routine? Share this with them!
What’s your favorite part about the back-to-school routine? We’d love to hear in the comments!
Posted on September 1, 2015