When my children were five and six, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Initially, I was so excited. That was the year both kids would be in school, and I would be able to spend my days happily at work and then come home, make a happy dinner, hug my children, and tuck them in at night. As it turned out, by dinner-time, I found myself exhausted from being up so early in order to organize my home each day.
Our home “stress time” seemed to always be in the morning. My husband worked late and therefore started work late, leaving the morning routine with the children up to me to manage solo. My kids were really active in the morning. They both have strong personalities. My daughter Braedan lives joy out to the fullest every day. She has no internal monologue, so there is very little going on in her life that you do not know about. My son Merrick is a doer and has a very defined way of doing things. He has an order and he does not like chaos. Three different personalities and procedures working together in the same space working towards the same common goal sometimes felt very chaotic.
Mornings at one time were my favourite time of day, but it was getting to the point where I dreaded mornings. I began to feel guilty because by the time the kids got on the bus, we did not have a good farewell I needed help. As usual, it took me awhile to remember my greatest resource—music. Could it possibly work?
Even though I use music often, I still have moments where I question its validity. Time and time again, however, I find that it is not music that isn’t working. It’s the implementation. I gave some thought to what I could try. It would mean losing some more sleep, but I decided it was worth it.
The next morning I woke up forty-five minutes before the kids and snuck downstairs to the living room that adjoined to our kitchen. I turned on the soothing classical music I chose the night before. Even though I was very tired, I felt the room lift as soon as I turned on the music. I noticed myself take a deep, calming breath. Then I went into the kitchen and set up the table with the breakfast supplies. I went back upstairs and started getting ready for the day. I could hear the music. After some time, I heard one of the children get up and go downstairs. They didn’t come back up and they didn’t turn on the TV (or ask if they could).
Then the second door opened, this time my daughter got up and yelled up the stairs, “Mom! The music is on.” I smiled. I waited for them music to turn off, but they didn’t. I heard some dishes rustling at the table and I knew they were having their cereal. By the time they were back upstairs, I was ready to go and could just monitor their getting-ready process.
I am not saying the house was quiet—it wasn’t. We still talked; we still slammed the occasional closet door but there was definitely a difference. There was a calming, intentional presence in the home that was not there previously. I didn’t get up every morning and prepare the music context in my house but whenever I did, I noticed a similar difference. We continue this ritual to this day and now the kids, who are almost ready to leave for college, actively participate in choosing the music we listen to in the morning.
I had little music in my home growing up. When my parents split my mom had to take two jobs in order to support us and pay the mortgage. She was always so worried. We didn’t go to daycare—we were “latchkey kids.” We had to stay at home with the doors locked.
Most days I would walk home with friends after school, take my key from around my neck, open the door, lock it immediately, and then call my mom. I always felt a little nervous. Sometimes I would open the back door and I would hear music playing quietly on the radio. That’s when I knew my mom was home. I was safe. Neither one of us figured out that if she left the radio on all day—or even used a timer to turn it on—I may have felt that same sense of safety.
Using music intentionally is critical if we hope to achieve our goals whether it be to set a tone of connection and calm at home or to give children the sense of security they need. As you use music with greater intention I am certain you will continue to find new music that might turn into positive memories and anchor songs that will support you through whatever life throws your way.