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Modern Parenthood

“Morning wars” détente: Surviving bad socks and permission slips

"Morning wars" – that great daily negotiation about food, clothing, getting to school on time – is one of Mom's biggest problems. Here are top tips for détente. 

By Guest Blogger / September 11, 2012

Morning wars – those important negotiations about food, clothing, and homework – can get out of hand if Mom doesn't find the right regimen for détente. There's six times the value in finding that regimen for Karoline Byler – mother of sextuplets – shown here shuffling her kids into the first day of kindergarten Aug. 20, 2012.

Kathleen Flynn/Tampa Bay Times

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San Francisco

In the front hall of a grade school one morning, I heard one mother say to another, "She's the person you should talk to." She was pointing at me. The woman she spoke to was upset. As the school psychologist, I am often sought out in such situations. After 20 years in this school, I'm asked for advice on everything from how to cure nose picking to easing the hurt of family breakups.

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Guest blogger

Susan DeMersseman is a psychologist and writer living with her husband in the San Francisco Bay area, where she has worked with children – including her now grown children – and families for more than 30 years. When she appears on local media or at parent workshops she is often introduced as a “parenting expert,” a label she describes as her favorite oxymoron (followed closely by sweet 16). She blogs at  Raising kids, gardens, and awareness.

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In this case I found that the mother was upset over one of the most common parental struggles: "the morning wars," those upsetting conflicts over getting children off to school on time.

The first mother was right. I was the person to talk to. Not just because I was the school psychologist but also because I was a veteran of the morning wars. In fact, that very morning I had just come from the front – with my own children.

These battles arise for all kinds of reason. Often it is finding, as you run out of the house, that a permission slip is missing or a special supply is required for that day. I'm sure I'm not the only mother who has learned, at the last second, that an empty milk carton was needed for that day's art activity. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has scrambled around pouring a half gallon of milk into every little jar I could find.

Prepare the night before

Over the years I've heard many stories from parents, most about clothing, breakfast and papers. From these parents I have also learned a few solutions. The overriding one is to do everything you possibly can the night before. A common clothing issue is having only the scratchy T-shirt clean enough to wear, then having to dig in the dirty clothes basket for the least dirty soft T-shirt. Or it may be the wrong socks.

I'm certain there were knights who spent less time looking for the Holy Grail than I have spent looking for socks that didn't have that uncomfortable seam in just the wrong place. Wearing them inside out helped a little. Then my daughter turned 6, which seemed to cure a lot of things.

Years ago I heard a well-known psychologist speak about his own children's resistance to getting dressed and how he once took them to school in their pajamas (no wonder we psychologists have the reputation we do). Nowadays such a strategy might get you reported to the authorities, even if it made you a hero to other parents.

Choose your battles

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