Baskets and Tote Bags

Our mornings used to be beastly. I mean beastly. M was having a lot of trouble starting her day. Her clothes weren’t right, her ponytail wasn’t tight enough, her pillows weren’t straight enough, etc. You name it and we were battling it. All of those little things culminated to produce epic mornings full of crying and full out meltdowns. By the time I dropped her off for school a little before 8:00am, I already felt like I had run a marathon. I was exhausted and the day hadn’t even started yet. 

As the new semester approached I thought a lot about what we could do differently. I felt like we had tried everything, including changing the routine, spending extra time together, eating right away, etc. None of it had worked.  I was almost too depleted to come up with a new solution. But I did. Because that’s what moms do. 

So, the night before our first day back I talked M and W about the new morning routine. They each packed a basket/tote bag with the clothes and toiletries they would need for the following morning. When it was time to get up, they would bring their things downstairs, and they could get dressed together in my bathroom. They excitedly packed up and went to bed while I waited skeptically for the following morning.Sure enough they arrived, bed head and all, carrying their things and ready to start the day. They got dressed peacefully, M especially, and we had the nicest morning we’d had in weeks. It actually worked! And it’s still working! I have no idea why this took and the other approaches I tried didn’t, but here we are, slowly and steadily on our way to more peaceful and happier mornings.

I tend to be an inside the box person. It’s actually more comfortable for me to keep trying the same thing rather than thinking outside of the box and creating something new. You can see how well that was working for me. Additionally, I  had to let some things go—also not my strength. For example, M is not currently required to make her bed in the morning. It became such a “thing,” and we had to take it off the table. That goes against a lot for me. I realized, however, that M knows how to make her bed and does plenty around the house to contribute to family life. The fact that she makes her bed daily before school is not really important right now. What’s more important is for her little body and spirit to go peacefully into the day. For M that means spending time coloring at her desk.  Just the other morning I heard her complete a thank you note, sigh contentedly, and say “There. That’s done.” She felt good. So did I.

We get stuck as parents doing the same thing because it’s how we’ve always done it. Half the time we are all so tired and operating in survival mode or maybe one notch up from it that we fail to see another path, an open window, or the back door. Our kids are counting on us to find those different approaches. One tiny tweak, one new idea, or one step outside of your box could affect the change they need in order to be successful. When you are “in it” it’s hard to see any other way around it, but finding clarity in the midst of chaos sure made a big difference for little M. 

Wishing you eyes to see and ears to hear.

Find the joy,


Jessica McCauley, M.Ed. is a parenting coach/consultant. She draws on her background as a Montessori educator and Child Life Specialist to help families navigate the challenges of the early childhood years. Contact Jessica at for more information or to schedule a consultation.