4/13/2007

When I am King: School Daze

When I am King...

Getting kids ready for school must get faster.

Anyone that has tried to get kids ready for and delivered to school in the morning knows that this is a demanding and physically impossible task. You run around a chaotic household in a caffeine- and adrenaline-stoked haze and end up forgetting at least one critical thing, realizing when you drop off your kid that you're missing either a lunch, a shoe, some article of clothing, or a child.

There are several discrete tasks to accomplish in the morning rush. We need to wake up each kid (often the hardest task), get them dressed, get their lunch ready, feed them breakfast, dress them in a coat if necessary, and take them to their destination.

I propose implementing several schemes to optimize this process, thus improving school attendance, reducing parental stress, and making for a generally happier society.

Caffeine
First things first: you're not going to attempt this insanity without a good dose of stimulants in your system. Making and drinking coffee used to, before children, be a slow and pleasurable experience, from grinding the beans to carefully measuring the grounds to brewing the coffee to finally sitting down and drinking your cup while your system slowly woke up. Now, you're lucky if you have time to make a cup at all. The answer, of course, is chugging some instant coffee crystals. It's awful, but only if you think of it as a substitute for a cup of coffee. It's not. It's something to tide you over until you drop off the kids and then get to have your cup of coffee. To make sure that you get it soon enough, keep a jar on your endtable and eat it when you first wake up.

Clothing
Get kids dressed the night before, including socks and shoes. Not only does this save on time spent dressing in the morning, but it also saves on the cost of pajamas. Sure, it makes for a little less comfort getting to sleep, but once they are asleep the kids won't notice.

Lunch
Lunches will be made ahead of time. I like to make lunches whenever I have the time, like during a summer work break, and them store them in the freezer. The kids might complain that the texture of their peanut butter sandwiches and chips is 'weird' and 'gross' after semi-thawing out during the morning, and that the milk is hard to drink with chunks of ice in it, but I tell them that it's a whole lot better than the lunches I had when I was in school. This is a complete lie, of course, but kids have no way of knowing this.

Breakfast
It always amazes me to see a family breakfast scene in the movies, where the kids and parents all gather around the kitchen table to partake in a feast of eggs, juice, milk, pancakes, and bowls of fresh fruit. There's conversation, time for serious discussion and parental pep talks, and plenty of time for everyone to eat a complete breakfast. Does anyone human actually eat breakfast like this?

In my experience, the morning is a mad dash. The parents are running around getting stuff ready for themselves and the kids and have no time for idle chit-chat at the table. Chances are, anything out of their mouths are shouts and orders. It doesn't matter what the shouting is about; it's just important that the kids know that they're serious about it. The kids are too busy waking up to care much about talking, unless it's a conversation like “But I said I didn't want milk in my cereal!” And the meal is certainly not a four-course repast, with multiple choices for all appetites. The family is lucky if there's one large bowl of dry Cheerios with several spoons for sharing.

To ensure that the kids will get breakfast at all, I propose storing breakfast food in the pockets of their clothes. This might be a breakfast bar, a fruit, or a couple of handfuls of cereal. Note that the cereal option should skip milk as the pockets do not hold liquids well. The food might get a bit crushed during a night of sleeping on it, but it's better than nothing at all. Once again, try the line about how this breakfast is so much better than the breakfasts of your youth.

Wakeup Time
Waking the kids up is one of the biggest bottlenecks to the whole process, in my experience. If you can't wake them up, you can't feed them, dress them, or get them to their destination. Every optimization above helps here: the more that you can do the night before, the later the kids can sleep, and the easier it is to wake them up. So finally, when you do have to wake them up, it's much easier to do so. But we need to take this one step further.

I propose that kids sleep in the car directly. This saves on the final step of preparations in the house, and makes it possible to let the little darlings sleep all the way until you finally reach the destination. In fact, during cold nights the kids will sleep with coats on, reducing yet another step in the process of getting them ready in the morning. Then it is a simple matter of turning on AC/DC's “Hells Bells” at full volume in the school parking lot, and the kids are instantly awake and ready for another day of learning, learning, learning. Note that you may want to limit their late-night liquid intake with this panicked wakeup procedure.

This system will inspire new and exciting developments in automobiles, as larger models are developed to accomdate lunch freezers and more comfortable bedding. Current SUVs which can only fit carseats the size of full-size beds simply won't do, and ones that have fold-out Queens and Kings will not be long in coming.

Of course, these optimizations only address one small facet of raising school children. There are many more that my ministry is hard at work on. I kid you not.
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