Le Petit Nicolas - animated series poster. Source: Rudimertens.com
I called school to confirm this morning and it’s official. Thanks to the steady efforts of my 6-year old, we win silver medal this semester for being late in her 1st grade class. Yay, we did it! I’m so proud of my little girl. If we had tried harder, we would have ranked first but hey, it’s good to have a challenge in life, right? I know what people will say – being late is easy, anyone can do it. All right, anyone can do it but with that standard of excellency? It took us months of practice, dedication and quasi-scientific research on morning behaviors to reach that result. The quarterly letter we get from school says it all. “Dear Frog Mom Family, you did it again. You’re so late that you beat 95% of the other parents at timely child drop-off. It’s quite an achievement. Keep up the good work! The School.”
Of course I could keep all this myself but I can’t help sharing my little girl’s 10 best strategies on how to be late for school. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to be creative too:
- My bangs look terrible. Easier to do when you have bangs. If not, a wig will do. Say, a Dora wig that you’ve slept on all night, nicely ruffled. How: When you’re about to be on time, have the child stand in front of a mirror with a comb, try a few strokes with a pout, whine about unruly bangs and remain silent to all calls to action – that’s the hard part. Efficiency: at least 10 minutes. Variations: my hair clip just fell off, this head band hurts, I can’t find the comb.
- My pants are inside out: The night before, prepare all the clothes for school in a neat stack but make sure the pants are inside out. How: at dressing time, the child will start kicking the pile of clothes and sob uncontrollably that life isn’t fair, that pants should never be inside out, that it’s just too hard to get dressed. Extra credit if the child makes a mess in their clothes drawer to change the outfit completely and can’t find all the necessary items in the right sizes. Efficiency: up to 40 minutes. Variations: I don’t want to wear this today, I wore it last week, I’m wearing it tomorrow.
- My sis got out of the bedroom first: classic case of sibling rivalry 101. It works remarkably well on cranky mornings. How: after the first child is ready for breakfast, encourage the other child(ren) to stay in the bedroom and stare at the door. That’s where it becomes tricky – staring means doing nothing. Not even dressing up. I know, it’s hard to resist but practice and keep at it. Extra points if the child gets back into bed and refuses to bulge. Efficiency: between 10 and 30 minutes. Variations: she got the first hug, she got off bed first, she peed first this morning.
- My dollie isn’t ready: because nobody should feel left behind when you go to school, especially not Rebecca or Josefina. The key to success in this one is to wait until everybody is waiting at the door to start dressing up a doll. How: when you’re almost out the door, the kid should find any excuse (“I forgot my sweater” is a good one) to go back to the bedroom and start changing a doll’s outfit. Efficiency: until someone shows up and interrupts, about 5 to 10 minutes. Variations: my teddy bear is sick, my zhuzhu pet needs a friend, my imaginary friend got lost.
- I don’t want to go to school: not the most creative but hey, anything to win. How: when is the child is up and dressed, have them change their mind about what they want to do today. For inspiration, you could tape posters of your child’s favorite places outside of school on the walls. They don’t need to be a realistic goal for the day, just a mental distraction. Think Disneyland, any beach boardwalk, a room full of bouncy houses, an elaborate tree house. Efficiency: variable. Variations: well that’s pretty much the gist of it.
- My breakfast sucks: remember. Everybody’s allowed to change their minds and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. How: this works better under pressure so try it when you’re in a time crunch, have an appointment or bought a clock that ticks really loudly in the kitchen. First, ask the little one what he or she would like for breakfast. Spare no cereals, toasts or fruit. When it’s all ready and set, have the little one take a few bites and then push it away, asking for something else. Tip: this is awesome for kids to learn the ropes of bargaining. Efficiency: 10 minutes tops. Variations: my milk is too cold, my milk is too warm, I don’t want any milk.
- My tummy hurts: this one is almost cheating because it’s true, sometimes kids’ tummies do hurt and for a parent, it’s really hard to tell what’s perfectly-crafted tardiness and what’s can-we-please-go-to-a-doctor. I’ll let you use your common sense on that one. How: simple. in bed, the child should loudly announce “My tummy hurts!” and perform circular motions above the stomach area with their hands, all the while giving the parent the lost puppy look. Efficiency: it’s hard to say. 5 minutes or the entire day. Variations: my head hurts, my bones hurt, my pinkie hurts.
- I can’t find my shoes: a very playful technique based on the always-popular hide-and-seek backyard game, only played indoors. How: the night before, select all clothing items dutifully and place them all ready to be worn in the bedroom. After brushing teeth, give 10 minutes to your child so he or she can run around with the pair of shoes and hide them. So you stay in the dark, get on your computer and check your emails. The next morning, wait for the “aha!” moment when you are getting out the door. Efficiency: depends on how many other pairs of shoes are in circulation in your house or if the only pair of shoes that was needed for school this morning -is this one – say, tennis shoes for sport. Variations: I can’t find my sweater, I can’t find my socks, I can’t find my raincoat.
- I haven’t finished my homework: touchy subject with teachers, this better get dealt with right away. How: after school pick-up, take the child to two or three organized activities back-to-back so any school homework won’t be done. Wait until the next morning to get things started and do said homework. Efficiency: 10 to 15 minutes. Variations: I can’t find a pencil, I forgot my workbook at school, I swear I didn’t have to do my homework today.
- Mom, can we watch cartoons this morning? Pretty efficient if your child is like mine and stops eating breakfast the minute the animation starts. How: pretend like you’re getting ready for breakfast and negligently prop your iPad open on the breakfast table. Ignore the fact that your child has switched it on and now surfs YouTube for fun cartoons. Bonus points if the cereal gets soggy during the cartoon and you have to offer a second breakfast. Efficiency: 10 to 15 minutes. Variations: mom can you read me a book, mom can I read you a book, sis can you read me that book hiding on your lap under the table.
The best technique I couldn’t list up here because it requires quite a lot of handy work and you can’t do that every morning. My then-5 year old woke up one morning and complained her neck hurt. She complained so loud I called 911. Two firetrucks came over. The firemen were super nice. The whole neighborhood was watching. The firemen said we should go to the local hospital. We did. We waited the entire morning, saw the doctors and waited some more. The diagnosis finally came: first stiff neck ever. A muscle relaxant later, she was playing at school. Poor baby, well done for being so crafty!
Hopefully some of these techniques will be useful to a few of you and if you have novel techniques to share, please feel free to let me know how we can improve. We’re dying to be first place the next semester.