five days of morning commutes in nyc

Mike was away for work all this week which meant that I had to get both kids ready by myself and to school on time, on opposite sides of town. If you watch me on Snapchat, you know that Mazzy’s school is farther away (we take the bus) and Harlow’s school is closer (we take the stroller), but what makes going to both complicated is that Mazzy’s school (the farther away one that puts both Mike and me closer to work) starts first.

On a normal morning, one of us takes Mazzy and the other takes Harlow. We switch off who takes who every day. Mazzy needs to be out the door as close to 8am as possible and Harlow needs to leave at 8:45am. The person taking Mazzy is able to get ready themselves while the person taking Harlow helps Mazzy get ready.

Yes, I know. Mazzy should probably get ready by herself at this point, but she still needs prompting, help coordinating an outfit (unless I just want to throw coordination to the wind, which she would probably be fine with), hair brushing and styling (she wakes up with her hair looking like a huge bird’s nest, so I can’t ever imagine her being able to do it on her own) and breakfast made. Our kitchen is designed in a way that it is virtually impossible for her to make her own breakfast. She can’t reach anything. Come to think of it, she can’t reach the clothes in her closet either. These are some of the drawbacks of city living. When you don’t have a lot of square footage, you store things UP.

Once Person A and Mazzy are out the door, Person B gets themselves ready and gets Harlow ready. Harlow is considerably easier to get ready because she wakes up with her hair looking pin straight and perfect. It is the hugest time saver in the world and makes me realize how much easier it must be to get boys ready. Harlow is also way less picky than Mazzy when it comes to clothes, so it is easier to find her an outfit.

I tend to think that I do more of the work in the morning, because Mike can’t handle the clothing, shoes or the hair thing at all. But without Mike, I have a bit of a time management issue and can be forgetful. Mike is more on top of breakfast, making sure their backpacks are packed and he keeps track of time. We both try to pawn off tooth brushing responsibilities onto the other person. Mike also wakes up super early so even if the kids don’t wake up (which is a new thing this year), Mike is our alarm clock.

Our split of responsibilities works really well and we’ve been doing it for three years.

With Mike gone for the week, I had to get myself and both kids ready in a very compressed amount of time. I know many parents do the morning by themselves all the time but I think the commute becomes a little more complicated for city parents who do not use a car. First, I have to take Harlow with me and Mazzy on the bus across town, drop off Mazzy and then take the bus back across town so that I can take Harlow to school and then walk back across again to go to work.

None of this is fun when you have no time to get a cup of coffee until it’s all over. Well, that’s not true. I had time to get a cup of coffee the first day, but that proved to be a big mistake. More on that in a second. Basically, the first day was a total sh*tshow and I could only go up from there, which kind of felt like Groundhog Day as I tried to readjust the exact same scenario to see if it ended happier.

Here’s how it all went down:

morning routine day 1

The first sign of trouble began at dinner the night before, which was a birthday dinner for Mike’s cousin at Blue Hill Stone Barns. It was a four hour dinner with multiple courses and wine pairings that had us back after midnight and a little drunk. I didn’t even remember that Mike was leaving for his trip the next morning until I woke up at 5am to see him walking out the door with his suitcase. Then I made the mistake of closing my eyes and going back to sleep. The next thing I knew it was 7:33am and both kids were still sleeping. Waking them up and telling them there is no time to adjust to the morning and that they must immediately get ready is not an easy thing. We were also out of milk so Mazzy couldn’t have her morning “nice and warmy milky” which did not go over well, to say the least. There was lots of crying. I looked disgusting because I sacrificed getting myself ready for the two of them. There were fights over clothes (I don’t want to get dressed yet!), breakfast (I have no time to eat!), hair (OWWWWWWW!!!!!) and tooth brushing (Mazzy is using my stool!!!!) all before we headed out the door (after a last minute dash to retrieve Mazzy’s gymnastics outfit.)

Since we take a city bus to school (which comes every ten minutes on a schedule) as opposed to a school bus, there are three buses we can take— the early bus, the on-time bus and the late bus. Mazzy’s school has a fifteen minute window from the time when the classroom door opens to when the parents leave, which is so parents and children have the opportunity to play at activity tables together before class starts. Taking the late bus gets us to school right as the fifteen minute window closes, but Mazzy is still on time for class.

On this morning, after all the foot dragging and squabbling and whining, we got to the bus stop just as the late bus was leaving and had to take the late-late bus. Something that happens almost never. Then there was some sort of emergency vehicle situation on the block that made the bus even later. I called an Uber and even that was 12 minutes away, so all we could do was get muffins at the coffee shop and wait. This is when I made the mistake of purchasing the cup of coffee. As soon as I had purchased the coffee, the bus suddenly appeared and we had to run out of the shop to catch it. This meant that I had to herd everyone on the bus and find my Metrocard while carrying Harlow, her backpack and a piping hot cup of coffee. Nearly impossible but I didn’t realize that until I put Harlow down to fish for my card and she started to cry. It’s not like there is any place to suddenly toss your coffee once you have all boarded the bus. There isn’t even a place to put it down. Also, the late-late bus is way more crowded than the earlier buses and the passengers are all regular commuters going to work as opposed to parents bringing their kids to school, so nobody was sympathetic at all. I was just the idiot trying to take two little kids to school while balancing a hot cup of coffee. No one offered Mazzy or Harlow (still crying) a seat and the bus driver wasn’t moving until I paid. Did I mention that I still couldn’t find my Metrocard? So I was making everyone else late as well? Basically, I could feel a whole bus load of people thinking simultaneously, “This mom does NOT have her shit together.” They were right. I did not.

We got to school after the doors had closed (a first) and then of course, Harlow got to school late as well.

morning routine day 2

I was not about to let Day One repeat itself so I made a few very important changes. 1) I did not get drunk the night before. 2) I made sure we had milk. 3) I made them pick out their outfits before they went to bed. 3) I showered before I went sleep. 4) I vowed not to go anywhere near coffee until after I dropped off both kids.

But, I forgot to do one very important thing. Get a good night’s rest. I got into bed at a normal time but then I started reading news on my phone and went down one of those politics rabbit holes where you read everything you possibly can, until there is nothing left to read and then you freak out about the state of the world and can’t fall asleep. (Please tell me I am not the only one.) I woke up at 7:30am and once again, had to wake the kids and quickly get them ready. The kids were still grouchy (as was I) but this time, I was more prepared so at least I got them out the door in time for the late bus, which as I mentioned, still gets Mazzy to school on time.

“But I want you to play in the classroom!” Mazzy complained. “I know, Mazzy. Tomorrow we’ll try to get to school earlier.”

As for Harlow, I realized that if I left Mazzy the second the classroom door closed and exited the building immediately (no dawdling at the water fountain, no admiring the artwork, COME ON HARLOW!), I could catch a bus that gets us to her school only about ten minutes late.

That’s if you remember to get out at the right stop. Which I did not.

morning routine day 3

1) I did not get drunk the night before or stay up until all hours reading scary things about the world. 2) I made the girls pick out their outfits the night before and I put Harlow’s hip-hop outfit in her backpack. 3) I showered before bed. 4) I set my alarm for 7am.

When I woke up, I got myself ready so that by the time I woke them up at 7:30am, I could focus completely on them. I also made Mazzy’s “nice and warmy milky” before I woke her up, so that I could use it to lure her out of bed. Then I told them I wouldn’t turn the TV on until they were dressed and told me what they wanted to eat for breakfast. At 8am, I turned off the TV and told them to brush their teeth and get their jackets on, whether they had finished breakfast or not. They could take any leftover toast, cereal, waffle, etc. in a baggie and eat on the bus.

We made the “on time” bus. Woohoo!

I thought this was a huge win, but when we got to Mazzy’s school with plenty of time to play, she went over to the “class jobs list” and lamented that she never gets to class early enough to sign up for “Snack Collector.” The “jobs list” works on a first-come-first-serve basis and apparently the two spots for “Snack Collector” (two kids who get to bring the leftover snacks back to the cafeteria themselves) is quite coveted. In our entire year, Mazzy has not once gotten there early enough to claim it. I told her we would try our best tomorrow.

Harlow got to school on time although on the bus back, I realized I had run out of money on my Metrocard (I did not take into account the extra cost of the added back and forth) and had to resort to scrummaging change at the bottom of my purse to pay for it. At least we got off at the right stop.

morning routine day 4

This day was unique because it was “Me and My Favorite Guy Day” at Harlow’s school. Since Mike was away, my dad (aka Poppy) had agreed to go. The night before, I gave him very explicit instructions that he must show up at our apartment before 8am so that I could leave with Mazzy. Then he could hang out with Harlow for a bit until they had to leave at 8:45am. He made me promise that I would have Harlow dressed and ready when he got there. I promised.

I set my alarm again for 7am, but I think I was so amped up to get it all right that I woke up on my own at 6:30am. By the time I was ready, it was so early that I had time to make a cup of coffee. The coffee machine is loud and woke the kids which was an accident, but very effective. Nice and Warmy Milky was ready. Clothes were laid out waiting for them from the night before. The kids got dressed (Harlow with my help) without me having to ask them to do it twice. When Mazzy complained that she wasn’t done with breakfast by the time I asked her to brush her teeth, I said, “Do you want to get there in time for snack collector or not?” She hurried off to make it happen. We were all ready with bags packed and shoes on by 7:50am. Harlow’s backpack (with new snacks), jacket and hat was all prepped and ready for Poppy. Now we just had to see if my dad showed up on time…

Come on, Dad….

There was a knock. “It’s Poppy!!!” I opened the door, gave him the briefest hello of all time and dashed off with Mazzy. We made the early bus!!!!! WOOHOOOO!!!! Oh crap. I forgot to put more money on my Metrocard. And I had already scrounged all the change at the bottom of my purse. I gave the bus driver a panicked look. He nodded for me to just get on. Oh thank goodness, I got sympathy!

“Do you think the early bus is early enough to get snack collector?” Mazzy asked me. “Well, there’s an even earlier bus, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.” We got to school, ran inside and Mazzy was the very first one there. “I got it!!!!” she declared proudly as she signed herself up for Snack Collector. Then we sat down and played almost a full game of Life before it was time to leave.


morning routine day 5

That was this morning. I set my alarm for 7am and got myself ready. Turned on the coffee machine at 7:30am which woke up the kids; my new trick. When Mazzy got out of bed, I had her “nice and warmy milky” all ready. The kids got dressed from the clothes laid out the night before, had breakfast, brushed their teeth and we left with time to spare. Just as we were about to get in the elevator, I realized I still hadn’t put more money on my Metrocard. I ran back in and pulled out $5.50 from Mike’s jar of quarters. Enough for our trip to Mazzy’s school and back with Harlow. As I was counting out the money, Mazzy screamed in her best Mommy impersonation, “You’re going to make us late!”

We got to the bus just as the bus was pulling away.

“Now we have to take the late bus and we’re not going to have time to play!” Mazzy lamented. “Not so, Mazzy,” I countered. “That was the early bus. We are going to make the on-time bus.” “Really?” Mazzy relaxed. Harlow asked if we had time to get a muffin at the coffee shop before the next bus came, which we did. I did not get a cup of coffee.

I’m calling this week a learning experience and a success. Actually, once I got it down, it wasn’t really that hard.

Don’t tell Mike I said that.