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Washed, Dressed, Fed, Brushed…and Late for School Again!

Getting my grade-school daughter out the door on time takes patience, persistence, and a solid morning routine — okay, and the occasional threat.

I recently returned from spending three days at a children’s mental health conference in a neighboring state. My husband Don held down the fort at home while I was gone, which included two mornings of getting Natalie up and ready and driving her to school. Here’s what he texted me on my last day away: “It’s 8 AM and I’ve already done more work getting Natalie ready for school than most people do in a day. Please come home!”

Mornings are notoriously difficult for kids with ADHD, and my fifth-grader is no exception. Although at age 11 she’s finally developing a little independence, I still spend each morning nudging and cajoling (and sometimes bribing or threatening) in order to get her to school clean, fed, dressed, hair combed, teeth brushed — and on time. I’ve usually used up my daily allotment of patience by the time I drop her off, and spoken to her at least once in a way I feel bad about, so it felt good to have my husband validate that it’s not just me, that mornings with Natalie would probably be hard for anyone.

Lately, getting Natalie to get ready for school each morning has been even more difficult than normal. After arriving at school on time every single day since she started preschool, my fifth-grader has suddenly had a string of tardiness. My theory is that this is her latest form of school avoidance. For a good portion of this school year she was plagued with headaches and stomach aches. Those have reduced in frequency, only to be replaced by this spate of lateness.

What is making her late? The girl will not get out of the shower. More specifically, she’ll stay in the shower for what seems like hours, and no matter how many times I tell her it’s time to wash her body and her hair, she “forgets” to do it. And once she finally does wash, and gets out of the shower, she “forgets” every task, big and small, that needs to follow. “Put on your socks. Put on your socks. Put on your socks. Did you put your socks on yet? Find your shoes. Find your shoes. Find your shoes. Did you find your shoes yet?” I sound like a broken record.

We tried a reward system where Natalie would earn a prize if she was on time for school, and hadn’t skipped any vital steps, like putting in her contacts or brushing her teeth. That worked — for one week — and then it didn’t. I’m now setting my alarm so that we have two hours to get ready before we have to be somewhere, so Nat won’t feel hurried. It’s helping. But what’s helping the most is knowing that there are just a few short weeks of school left until summer vacation! After that, Natalie can pass her mornings moving as slowly as she wants.

Having Don acknowledge my daily challenge, in his typically humorous way, helped me to step back and give myself a bit of a break when I get crabby. Mornings with Natalie can be difficult, it isn’t just me. Now, I just have to hope that Don forgets how hard he had it while I was gone, before the next time I decide to go away!

[A Lightbulb Moment]