A Better Way to Start a Sunless Morning by Tyra Zuchowski

The whirl of kindergarten starting has slowed.   My boys and I know each step of the morning.  I wake up at six a.m. to sit in front of my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light for 25 minutes.  The boys chat in their room, then get dressed.  Up until recently, I patted myself on the back for rather easy mornings.  Our routine worked and they would arrive at school ten minutes before the bell.  But now that our mornings begin in darkness, there is resistance, sluggishness. I want more sleep in the morning, but rise reluctantly.  They want to stay in their pajamas longer and to have their early morning talks last until sunlight pours into the room. They move slowly, and my nagging begins.

“Get dressed now or we’ll be late!” I say. They ignore me.  I place their clothing on the bed.  They eye the six items of clothing wondering which to put on first: “Mama, I can’t remember, do I put on the short shirt first or the one with sleeves?”  When putting on pants, they scream as their leggings ride up their calves.  “Remember, you can tuck your leggings into your socks so they stay put,” I say.  But what I want to say is, “Are you a toddler again? Get dressed! I’ve got to go cook breakfast!”

I try to put away my anxiety about being late while I sing the call for breakfast at least three times.  They slowly make their way downstairs, only to move towards their train table, not the dining table.  I sing a little louder and before I know it, I’m yelling, “Sit down, it’s breakfast, for goodness sake!”  After battling over how much protein to eat, we go upstairs for teeth brushing, face washing, and hair management.  I give reminders (orders) to brush here, hold still there, turn this way.  Once they are shiny-faced and fresh we head for the winter gear. This is the ten minute finale in an already tiring morning of directives, reminders, frustrations and some shouting: putting on snow pants, two pairs of gloves, balaclava, hat, coat, scarf and boots! 

As I drive them to school, I recall what I said and how I said it. I am disappointed with myself: I was hard on them.  We arrive as the bell rings.  All that worry and nagging and we are not actually late.  What a crummy way to start the day.

So now I prepare for my morning by adjusting my expectations and setting intentions. I expect everyone to move more slowly—it’s wintertime.  I remind myself that there are many layers of clothes and the children will need help.  I expect to call them to breakfast several times.  I expect it to take what seems like forever to bundle everyone up.  Then I use loving kindness meditations to set the tone, my intention.  I sit in front of my SAD light as before but finish by speaking a meditation of loving kindness (below).  Having added these words, my mornings are less edgy and I smile more.  Later in the day, if I begin to nag or become irritable, a word or two of the meditation floats through my mind and I take a pause.  The pause is often enough for me to choose a kinder approach.  Gratefully, it is more often I drive the boys to school feeling supportive and capable.  Looking in the rearview mirror at their smiling faces, I know this is the better way

Part of the Metta Sutra (Loving Kindness Prayer):

May all beings be happy, content, and fulfilled.

May all beings be healed and whole.

May all beings have what they want and need.

May all beings be protected from harm and free from fear.

May all beings be awakened, liberated, and free.

May there be peace on Earth and in the entire Universe.

Here is a personal one I created:

May I breath deeply.

May I guide in a kind way.

May I smile.

May I bring happiness.

Tyra Zuchowski and her family live in Minneapolis; she attended the LifeWays Training in Wisconsin.