While my kids often wake up early on weekends to take advantage of their rare opportunity to watch television or play video games, allowing my husband and me to “sleep in” until 8 a.m., waking kids on weekdays presents a unique set of challenges for all of us.
Without the allure of limited screen time to tempt them from their beds, my son and daughter prefer to stay ensconced under their covers well past the morning alarm. Waking kids up at 6:30 a.m. gives them just enough time to get ready and catch the school bus. To keep us on schedule, I, of course, drag myself out of bed 30 minutes before I start waking up my kiddos in order to take a shower and get dressed.
Unfortunately, for about six months of the school year in Vermont, this timing means we wake up in darkness.
In addition to the darkness, we emerge from sleep cozy and warm under piles of blankets, dreading the prospect of entering the coldness of the Vermont winter day just beyond our beds. From November through February, we suffer through waking up to these conditions, and then, just as 6:30 a.m. brings sunlight in March, we plunge back into morning darkness with the arrival of “Daylight Savings Time,” the cruelest misnomer of all.
Parenting, as we know, consists mostly of trial and error.
Over the years, my attempts at waking kids on weekdays ran the gamut, including:
- Turning on bright lights in their bedrooms
- Setting personal, kid-friendly alarm clocks for them
- Entering their rooms with the phrase “get up, Get Up, GET UP! We’re going to be late!”
- Throwing the covers off their stubbornly prone little bodies
- Pulling on their ankles with my cold, cold hands
- Threatening them with no time for breakfast or with walking to school (3 miles!) if they missed the bus (until my daughter cried, thinking I was serious)
- Pleading, crying, cajoling, bribing…
You get the picture. Nothing really worked well, and we often ran out the door, panicked, running late, stressed out, and disgruntled with each other. I hated those mornings, putting my children on a school bus in a harried huff and then feeling guilty at my desk in the morning that my last words to them were “hurry up!” I needed a different approach.
As impossible as it sounds, I wanted our weekday mornings together to feel calm and peaceful with less deadline-oriented rushing and more quality family time.
Preparing as much possible the night before helps, rather than leaving major tasks as part of the morning rush. I enlisted my kids to put together their lunch box snacks and fill their water bottles. We decide whether or not they want to buy hot lunch by looking on the school menu, and we pick out clothes together for the next day based on their preferences, any school events, and the weather. Better preparation helps the mornings run smoother and feel less hectic, but it doesn’t solve the problem of my kids actually waking up in a timely manner.
Tapping into my creativity, I somewhat organically started a gentler waking up routine. Now, every morning, I come into my daughter’s dark room singing, “Good morning, good morning, it’s time to say good morning, good morning, good morning, to you.” While singing, I open the curtains, turn out her night light, and turn on a desk lamp with a softer light than the overhead, in that order. I sit on the edge of her bed and rub her back a little until she opens her eyes. I ask her what she wants for breakfast. When she gives me an answer, I place her clothes, selected the night before, next to her on the bed and ask her to get dressed. I then repeat this procedure exactly for my son. When breakfast is ready, I call them from their rooms.
Things got better, but we still experienced some rough mornings where they lingered in bed long past the time I normally allow.
One morning, I stood in the bathroom applying makeup, frustrated that my children stayed put in their bedrooms. At that moment, I decided I needed a force stronger than me to wake them up. Since music always helps me get moving, I set up my mini speaker in the hallway outside their bedrooms and blasted, “Jump Around” by House of Pain. They got up!
Thinking I had finally found the ultimate solution to our waking up problem, I started adopting this approach every morning, until my daughter yelled from her room, “Mom, I HATE that song! I am not getting out of bed if you play it again.”
My heart sank, and my brain screamed, “Nooooooooooo!” (My heart, brain, and I are all tired of troubleshooting the waking kids issue. We almost cracked.)
Luckily, I took a deep breath and said, “What songs would help you get out of bed and get moving?” She made some selections from our music library, and then my son came out of his room and made some more. Just like that, our, “Waking Up Dance Party” playlist was born.
While still in progress, it features:
- My daughters #1 pick: “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” by Justin Timberlake from the Trolls movie soundtrack. (Try not to get up and dance while listening to this song. I dare you.)
- My son’s #1 pick: “Roar” by Katy Perry. (Seriously, it’s about getting up and roaring like a tiger, ready-made for kids struggling with waking up during dark Vermont winters.)
- My #1 pick: “You’re Welcome” by Dwayne Johnson from the Moana movie soundtrack. (Who knew that “The Rock” could sing… and be funny… while singing?)
Waking up in the darkness and cold of Vermont winters will always be challenging, but with these strategies, we are doing it collaboratively as a family. My kids even love my made-up “good morning” song, in spite of my less-than-ideal singing voice.
What strategies do you use in your house to solve the waking up on weekdays challenge? What songs would you add to our playlist?