My first kid was always a morning person. He’s 10 now and wakes himself up at 5:30 everyday. He get’s himself ready and rarely complains. He is cheery and talkative even if he had a late night. He is like the male version of Snow White–singing with birds in the forest, obnoxiously happy.

Let’s just say he created some really unrealistic expectations for me.

My second kid hates mornings as much as a taco bell janitor hates cleaning toilets after Taco Tuesday.

This is what last school year looked like.

If I could manage to get her up at all she would hide in blankets, stare at me but refuse to talk to me, make a lot of whiney noises, and test every ounce of patience in my entire body.

She could never find clothes to wear, or breakfast to eat or lunch to pack. She often “had a stomach ache,” hated school (she didn’t really), and didn’t have any friends (also not true).

I really did try. I’d try to go in early and snuggle her in the mornings, I’d sing her songs to wake her up or turn on music I knew she loved. I’d try to pick out cute outfits to make it easier for her. But no matter what I tried, she wasn’t interested.

And then it would happen…

I would turn into a “momster.”

I hated who I was when this side came out.

  • Yelling to the point that I was sick of my own voice.
  • Making threats and taking things away.
  • Going off on these long diatribes about how spoiled she was and how kids in other countries would be grateful for her life, or how I would go to jail if she didn’t go to school and she’d have to find a new mom, stuff like that.

I was desperate and nothing ever seemed to work. The few good mornings were tiny miracles that I couldn’t figure out how to duplicate.

Summertime meant our relationship was easier. She slept till 10 a.m. and I was grateful.

This new school year brought on a fresh start and I can finally say…we are doing so much better.

Monday’s are still the hardest, but we figured out a few things that give us more good days than bad.

1. Acknowledging Anxiety.

One day while scrolling through Facebook I saw a headline that said, “Kids don’t say they have anxiety, they say they have a stomach ache.”

My heart sunk. I lost count of the times I had dismissed her “stomach aches” as an excuse to get out of responsibility. I read the article and felt like the worst mom on the planet, but I also felt like I finally had a clue that could help my child and save my sanity. It all made sense. I immediately ordered the book they recommended for helping children understand and work through their worries.

As we read through it together I realized that as much as this described my child, it described me even more. Another gut punch. So a mom with unknown anxiety was trying to get a kid with unknown anxiety to suck it up and take on the world…every morning. A horrible combination.

This was a game-changer for us because it allowed us to both feel seen and gave us the language and understanding to communicate with empathy.  Now, when she says she has a stomach ache, I respond with “What’s troubling you?”  Or she’ll say, “Mom, I have a stomach ache, but not anxiety, a real one, maybe I need to poop.”

2. Soft Transition. I used to let her sleep as long as possible, thinking it would help her wake up in a better mood, but she ended up feeling rushed and overwhelmed and would freeze up. This year, I started getting all of the kids up earlier and letting them watch one show before they have to get ready for the day. We try to keep it educational (Current favs are “The Who Was Show” and “Brain Child” on Netflix). This has made a huge difference. I like to have a few minutes to read a devotional, sip my coffee and journal a bit before the day begins, she just needed the same soft transition.

3. Gratitude Practice. Even though mornings at home were getting better, I noticed that once we got in the car that anxiety would spike back up (especially since her older brother wasn’t at the same school this year to walk in with her). So, we implemented a gratitude practice while we drive. It’s like a game where we take turns sharing things we are grateful for. There is a visible difference in her face before and after we do this. And bonus, I end up a little more cheery too.

We still have good days and bad days, but overall we are both improving in how we deal with each other. I feed my inner “Momster” dark chocolate to keep her from rearing her ugly head and take herbal oil every day to manage my own anxiety so I don’t contribute to hers. Our relationship is not as strained, and that definitely belongs on the gratitude list.

This post originally appeared on Midland Moms Blog.