In my early years of parenting I avoided one of the major sources of parent/child stress by home educating, thereby upping the quantity of pyjamas and sofa time in our house considerably. After a brief – and almost wholly miserable – stint at trying to get out to take people to playgroup, I concluded that it had no overall benefit to my day since I required 2 hours rest, much tea and a large supply of biscuits to recover from the experience, by which time I needed to go and collect them and deal with the inevitable exhausted, hungry and over-excited children they returned to me.
The trauma over the years of trying to get out of the house to Tumbletots, Ballet, Gymnastics, Brownies, Taekwondo should have improved things but it is a matter of legend that no one ever knew where their ballet shoes were when it was time to leave the house (I often did, under the bed being a safe bet) and clean kit, leotards or rugby boots that fitted and had the right number of studs were generally pretty hard to find. My children have a high regard for my ability to read their wardrobe requirements from the inside of a smelly gym bag that is lurking in the garage.
By the time everyone decided to go to school they were, thankfully, much older and ought therefore to have acquired some skills of their very own at this chore . It’s been an education to discover quite how hard it is – at 9.30pm the night before school restarted this week, the collateral damage was a missing blazer, a missing tie, a shirt that “has always been too itchy mummy!” and trousers that turn out not to match the school uniform requirements after all.
I believe they all left with pencils for school. It’s possible they all had shoes. 😆 🙄
So here are my tips.
- Have one to three less children than you think you can muster out of the door. They are all twice as much work as you expected anyway so it reduces the hit to something like a doable event.
- Lie. Under no circumstances let them know the real last minute that you can leave to get somewhere safely. Leave a buffer of at least 15 minutes; ideally, have all the clocks in the house set fast too.
- Have a bag for EVERYTHING. Ballet bag, gym bag, school bag… you will, depending on the number of children, drown in bags but there is at least a small chance of finding stuff you need. If they use something for 2 different events, have two of them, one for each bag. If you can train the children to put stuff back in them after using you are a) a better person than me and b) on to a winner and (c), you might be living in Stepford, but that’s not my problem).
- Don’t rely on your other half for anything. They don’t remember what you tell them, recall details like who does tap dancing when, or realise that shoes with metal bits on are required for the aforementioned activity. Have a very accurately annotated calender (with fake leaving times) by the door.
- Tell your children – and follow it through – that if they don’t know where their stuff is at leaving time, they have to leave anyway and dance in bare feet/not hand in homework/do taekwondo in their ordinary clothes. This works pretty well for school or anything that involves potential detentions. And it’s a good life lesson anyway. Suck it up.
- Don’t need a lie in. Ever.
- Don’t go away ever and leave any form of school or activities run to them or their dad. Any system you have created will breakdown irretrievably. There will not be a ballet shoe left in the house by the time you come back.
- Don’t tidy up. Obviously there is a critical mass involved here but if you make them put away their blazer, school bag or glasses every night, you greatly up the chances of them randomly stashing it somewhere they can’t remember tomorrow. It’s painful but the newel post and a pile of shoes at the bottom of the stairs is the only way.
- There used to be a lot of shouting in the car on the way to school when I was a kid. I don’t shout (much). I sit in stony, furious silence for about 5 minutes and then attempt to do a disconcerting switch to cheerful afterwards. Apparently far scarier and keeps them on their toes 😉
- Establish a wishlist pad. If something is too small, broken, missing or wrong, they can write a request for a new one on the pad. Since 98.3%* of all late leaving scenarios are caused by “stuff”, this allows you to only take responsibility for it if you have written proof of a request for replacement. Also, make them buy things they lose. It’s amazing how quickly they learn to take more care of their stuff.
On the plus side, years of nagging, shrieking and enforcing an element of taking responsibility for themselves has genuinely paid off; these days the girls are really pretty good at getting out of the house on time. Which makes it all the more embarrassing that it is often me charging about looking for my keys, purse and shoes….
What are your tips for leaving the house on time and with all the required stuff? Real or ridiculous accepted in equal measure 😉
*May not have been accurately researched.