The underlying desire is to teach self-reliance and personal responsibility but the actual motivation of the Morning List for this indie mama is just a desperate search for some early hour quiet.
I am by nature introverted. I require quiet as much as I need water and sleep in fact, sometimes I require quiet more than sleep and will stay up late to sneak in more moments with my sweet companion - silence. It was a few too many late nights of quiet in a row that led to missing the alarm that would give me the holy morning moments before kids smelled the sun rising and popped up with questions, demands, top-of-the-lungs songs (I won’t sing it, but you know which one I mean), and all the other things that come with kids in the morning. That is the necessity of Mother that birthed the Morning Lists.
There are endless blogs and YouTube videos about the importance of morning routines and morning rituals for adults but for those of us that are parents and especially those of us that are single parents or often end up parenting solo, pretty much the only way those morning routines can come to pass is if we get up at four in the morning. With a baby, erratic sleep schedules of toddlers or multiple kids, staying up too late the night before to help finish homework or clean up the house or just get a few minutes to decompress before we collapse into bed the only thing that is consistent about a four am morning ritual as a mama is the fantasy that it could happen.
For our home, and my sanity, I created a morning routine or morning list for the children too.
image: a portion of the morning list for my then eleven-year-old
Obligatory notice that I did the research to back this up. I am not destroying their childhood by having them perform their own basic hygiene or do chores.
The Harvard Grant Study cites the participation in household chores as the common factor in success in the Harvard longterm seventy-five-year study. Another motivating resource is Julie Lythcott-Haims’ book How to Raise an Adult: Break free from the overparenting trap and prepare your kid for success.
The University of Minnesota collected and analyzed data over twenty years to determine the best predictor of success in young adulthood. The analysis defined success as education completion, career path, and personal relationships and found the secret to success was if they had begun doing chores at an early age.
How early? As young as 3 or 4 years old.
Until recently it has been fairly common for children to help out and pitch in, especially in homes with one parent on duty or more creatures to tend. Children are more than capable to participate in the morning routine that sets the house in motion. Inviting them to do so, let's children know their caregivers see them as competent members of the household and children begin to see themselves that way too.
From putting away laundry, gathering eggs, feeding pets, helping with breakfast, or the basics of dressing themselves and cleaning up their space, there is plenty that little hands can contribute to in the morning without constant supervision. Of course, use your own judgment to pick tasks that are age and ability appropriate.
image: a portion of the morning list for my then four-year-old
Some family contributions for the littlest family members can be putting away the silverware from the dishwasher or the dishes that they can reach (worth reordering your cabinets if you haven’t already), emptying hampers, taking the dirty laundry to the laundry room, washing the table or setting the table for breakfast.
In our home, the original Morning List was introduced when my oldest was five, although my second born received their first Morning List at age three. We use pictures and repetition for littles that are not reading. A typical three year old list might have five tasks. Keep them short enough to remember all the tasks. It is unlikely the Morning List will hold the focus of a three year old, but they can be directed back to the tasks through recitation. We re-visit their Morning Lists every season to see what is working and where we could expand or contract.
The early rounds of Morning Lists center around their own basic care and hygiene. Picking out clothes, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, drinking water, energetic hygiene and typically one thing for the family. We don’t classify things done for the family as chores. We call them contributions. We are all here participating - working together to make a beautiful life together and that requires everyone’s help to happen.
A consideration, once you get your littles into the rhythm of dressing themselves, in our runaround lives and fast mornings, dressing our children, brushing their hair and teeth, some of the basic care and hygiene of littles is often and unfortunately the only times we are in physical contact with our children as we are moving quickly through our morning and our day.
As they take on responsibility for these tasks, add in other ways that you maintain the very real human need and relational activity of touching each other - respectfully and with consent. (Also a great way to engage and introduce the concept of consent.)
Throughout the years since we started, there have been various levels of resistance to the Morning List. With that acknowledgment, the Morning List still affords me approximately forty to sixty minutes of mama morning time that may or may not include interruptions. If we’re honest, it is highly unlikely to score sixty consecutive minutes of actually uninterrupted mama time when kids are around, awake, and without another adult to engage with. I am so grateful for the fits and spurts that are created for my work and my pleasure to have space - even in the morning.
My own rhythm and traditions have fluctuated and I still deal with phantom shower screams while I am trying to be chill and relaxed in a morning shower but usually it is actually a phantom. I can stretch, yoga, dance even with moderate interruptions. None of those things happen when I am putting their morning together for them or following children around the house repeating myself about what they could be doing to motivate the morning. I can journal, write, and even complete an entire three pages of Julia Cameron’s morning papers before I get interrupted - sometimes, now that I said that it may never happen again but it happened this week.
Mostly though, I can be quiet. I can stay in a place of pleasure and attentiveness to my body and my sweet spirit as I am emerging from slumber and my connection feels the deepest.
I can get inspired and have the brief moments needed to breathe that inspiration into life even if only journaling for fifteen minutes, creating an audio file rant, writing a poem, or checking off one thing to feel like I am honoring myself before I dive into work and parenting and life all at once.
Ultimately I think that’s what morning routines are meant to provide.
Harvard Grant Study
University of Minnesota Analysis
How to Raise an Adult: Break free from the overparenting trap and prepare your kid for success by Julie Lythcott-Haims