Starting school last year was difficult for our family. It seemed like every morning for the first month my son Jake would break down when he got to the classroom, begging me not to leave. It broke my heart.
His teachers finally approached me and explained he might do better if he had a consistent morning routine. At the time, we didn’t have a routine. Getting him ready for school was chaotic. So I developed a plan where he would wake up and go potty then have breakfast, get dressed and watch TV for a bit while we waited to walk out the door. Surely it would work.
It did for a while, but soon it turned back into chaos again. Unfortunately, as a person with Tourette’s syndrome, I easily get frustrated. When facing an unexpected challenge, I can go from peaceful to rage in 2.4 seconds. And as always, frustration at home translated to a hard day at school for Jake. I was worried.
Finally, my wife Lori reminded me that Jake and I are uniquely connected. We feed off each other’s moods and if I push, he pushes harder. If I were to loosen up and not be so rigid with his routine in the mornings, things might change for the better. Remain firm, yet flexible.
Lori was right. When I started loosening the reins I found that mornings became easier. When Jake insisted on watching TV instead of getting dressed and having breakfast, I struck a bargain with him. Instead of forcing him into his room to get dressed before TV time, Jake can watch TV in the morning if he cooperates and gets dressed at the same time.
It also helps for me to enter the morning routine aware that he is not even 4 years old yet. It’s his job to push my buttons and I have to make sure he doesn’t get me riled up. His day at school depends on mornings with me being calm and peaceful. Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.
Editor’s Note: A version of this first appeared on the NYC Dads Group blog.