Friday, January 24, 2014

Getting a 3 Year Old Ready in the Morning

There are plenty of things that make the infant stage challenging. Middle-of-the-night (or all night) wake-ups, frequent feeding and diaper changes, and the constant uncertainty if I was doing things the “right” way, to name a few. Want to know something that wasn’t hard for us with an infant? Getting her ready in the morning. 

I returned to work when my baby was 12 weeks old. I remember those mornings in the beginning being very simple. I did have to wake up insanely early (in the 4 a.m, hour). But I simply picked up my infant from her co-sleeper or crib and took her to bed with me to nurse for 40 minutes. After she was done nursing I put her back to sleep while I got ready in the quiet house. I actually left the house before the baby was up again (which was difficult emotionally but helped both of us with the certain separation anxiety we would have encountered). My husband got the baby out of her bed about 5 minutes before he needed to leave. He gave her a fresh diaper and then popped her in the pumpkin car seat. Morning routine with the child --- Done!

As my baby turned a year, I began to worry that our morning routine was going to get rockier. There are plenty of things that make the 1 year old stage challenging. The language barrier, every limit possible being tested to see what can be gotten away with and the sudden belief that everything belongs to the child (including her mother’s arm), to name a few. Want to know something that wasn’t hard for us with a 1 year old? Getting her ready in the morning.

When my baby was 12 months I stopped pumping milk at work (so no more pumping supplies to pack in the morning) and around 13 months my baby dropped her morning nurse. With these 2 things gone I actually gained about 50 minutes of pure sleeping bliss to my morning routine. My husband still only needed about 5 minutes to get the (now toddler) ready. A quick diaper and instead of putting her in her pumpkin carrier in the house he just carried her to the car. Morning routine with a child --- Done!

When my baby turned 2 we had some pretty dramatic changes. And there are plenty of things that make the 2 year old stage challenging. The sudden and unexplainable aversion to previously loved foods, the desire to complete each task independently (no matter how long it takes) and some down-right impressive temper tantrums, just to name a few. Want to know something that wasn’t hard for us with a 2 year old AND an infant? You guessed it --- getting ready in the morning!

Right around her 2nd birthday my oldest transitioned to a toddler bed. I was on maternity leave with my second child during that time. I returned to work, again, when the baby was 12 weeks old. The baby followed the above mentioned infant steps. No problem! Autumn was (day time) potty trained around 27 months. When I look back, I would think this would be the time when morning challenges would have started. But it was fine. Autumn climbed out of her toddler bed. I helped her take off her night time diaper and onto her potty seat. I helped her into her coat and shoes in the morning. It took maybe 10 or so minutes instead of the 5 from the previous years. She walked to the car while Daddy held the baby in the pumpkin carrier.

It was maybe just before she turned 3 that things got really difficult. Now, for about the last 6 months it has been really tough. When I go in her room to wake her up she kicks, squirms and keeps her eyes closed. She tells me she’s still sleeping and all but tells me to go away. And she does get about 10 hours of sleep at night so I don't think I can do any better than that. I know struggling to wake a child up in the morning is the opposite of many parents problems (many of which wish there child would at least sleep until the 7 or 8:00 hour). Also, on days off of work, my sweet girl almost always wakes me up at the exact time I would be cajoling her out of beds on work days. Once I do get her out of bed in the morning I then have to walk her through each and every step to get her “jobs” done. This includes taking off her night time diaper, going potty, brushing her teeth and getting dressed. I do ask that all these things be done independently by her (with maybe just a little help). Through each and every step there are usually varying degrees of whining and complaining (or just sitting there doing nothing). The thing that really gets me is that some mornings she will be fine without even needing prompts, while on other mornings it’s like pulling teeth. I will often find some motivator (help hand me my make-up, go play in the snow for 2 minutes in the morning, take a special toy to daycare) but any motivator that is offered only lasts a short time and then we’re back to the same old begging and pleading. Our newest rule is that she will not be allowed to listen to her music in the car if she doesn't get ready. This works well for leaving daycare so I'm hopeful it will work for the mornings too. But I'm not going to hold my breath.

I know this is just a phase. One of many phases that children go through and it, too, will pass. But if you happened to read about the time I drove the wrong car to work, you already know my mornings are not always smooth and easy-going. It’s hectic --- really hectic --- with 2 parents working full time outside the home and 2 children to get ready. If you are reading this hoping to learn ways to get your  child moving in the morning, I’m sorry, I don’t have that information. But if you happen to have ANY thoughts or suggestions for how I might do this myself, well --- you might just become my hero.

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  1. Oh no. So sorry if my first comment came through too. You can definitely delete one. I was just saying that I haven't gotten to 3 yet. My son is just reaching 2 this April actually. I think all phases require lots of patience and learning on their parts and our parts. My son has gone through so many in just under 2 years of living. Do you wonder if Autumn is getting enough sleep? She seems like maybe she is a bit tired maybe. Not sure if going to bed earlier or winding down earlier might help. You seem to be better at routines than me, but our schedules are more laid back because I stay home. I also mentioned before in my comment that sometimes I make my tone a bit more stern with my son and he seems to take me serious at that point. The only thing though is before I get stern, I try to be as patient as possible and make sure that his behavior isn't caused by something I need to fix like maybe he's over tired or something. You seem to have more experience with having 2 since I'm on 1 carrying number 2. I hope what I said helps in some way. Thanks for co-hosting Countdown in Style with us this week!

    1. You are so right that each phase takes lots of patience and learning! I have wondered about her sleep but I don't think I can give her more night sleep (she's in bed for 10 hours) but we are in the process of adjusting her nap routine. You have a good point about winding down though - we could probably stand to try to have more quiet time before bed time. I know this phase is probably just something I have to wait out though. :) Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. My five-year old is really slow getting ready to go anywhere. Luckily I don't work and he is homeschooled, so it's not a daily struggle. However, it's hard to make it to appointments on time.

  3. I was hoping this phase wouldn't last until 5...although I guess I wouldn't be shocked if it did! She does do very well some days so at least it isn't every single day! Thanks for your comment, Sonya!

  4. I never had any trouble getting my son ready in the morning. My toddler, I have trouble doing everything with her. I'm sorry I don't have any advice, except distractions, like you suggested. Have a bunch of these things and hope it sticks. Thank you for linking up and co-hosting Countdown in Style.

    1. It's nice to hear there's at least a chance my baby won't be like this; it's hard to imagine getting 2 ready like this! Thanks, April!


I would love to hear your thoughts, tips, or advice! Please share!