Herding Cats

With the beginning of school, extracurricular activities, and general craziness, I need to find a routine to leaving the house. It’s a bit like herding cats. If you’ve never done that, you have missed a valuable life lesson in impossibility. You see when you endeavor to get any number of children and yourself out the door at approximately the same time, chaos almost always ensues. Someone can’t find a shoe. Someone else thinks polka dots and stripes make a fashion statement. Another grabbed her younger sister’s shirt and suddenly she’s wearing a midriff top that wasn’t made to be a midriff. Within five minutes half are yelling and the other half are crying. I do a combination of both. You would think we belonged in a reality TV show.

For scheduled leaving the house times, meaning we know in advance we are leaving for, say, a class, then we start preparing about an hour before leave time. I send everyone to get dressed because even in the afternoon most are in various stages of dress, or undress, as the case may be. Next is personal care, brush your teeth (I don’t care if you brushed them last night), brush your hair (yes it does look like a rat slept in it), and wash your face and hands (yogurt is meant to be eaten, not absorbed through the skin).

Second, what do you need to take with you? Get it all together and put it in front of the exit door. My children have been known to step over stuff without picking it up to get out the door. That is a strict no-no now. The hall must be devoid of anything that isn’t leaving the house with us. Therefore, everything in the hall gets packed in the car.

Third, we try to do a general tidy up before leaving. It’s kind of like the old adage to wear clean underwear. If I don’t come home, do I want someone to think pigs lived in the house? Some days there’s no winning this battle, but most days I at least leave with as few dirty dishes in the sink as I can manage. We’re not talking Martha Stewart here, just reasonable order.

I also build a 10 minute cushion into my leave time. So, I tell the kids 20 minutes before blastoff that they have 10 minutes. It stokes the fire of motivation, shall we say.

Of course there are always times of unplanned leaving, like the time I forgot a dentist appointment and casually picked up my phone to see what the reminder chime was for. We had 15 minutes to get to a dentist office 10 minutes away. It resembled an abandon ship drill. Kids pouring out the house and piling in the car like their lives depended on it. We made it on time and in one piece. Not exactly looking our best, but hey, it was the dentist.

What is your plan for getting everyone ready to leave the house?

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