Last Friday, my recent struggle with morning times reared its frustrating head.

I was planning on a bike/strength workout combo in the basement around 6:30, but I hadn’t told Ben, my then-16-year old, that was my plan. (Because, quite frankly, why would he care?)

Meanwhile, Ben, who normally leaves for school around 7 for his singing group that rehearses at 7:30, hadn’t told me his rehearsal was canceled at the last minute. (I care about things like that, but the teenager is sparse with his words.)

As I typically do these days, I missed my 6:30 appointment with myself. I laid in bed and drooled and listened to the morning news. Finally, clad in bike shorts, I walked down the stairs around 7:40 to our basement/gym. Ben was busy weaving a spider web for his birthday party on Saturday night. There was already purple and green yarn strung through my bike, resistance bands, and other workout equipment.

I had a choice: either go to the real gym to get my endorphins flowing or forget the endorphins, walk the dogs, and transition to work.

Choice A: a good one, but would leave me with not a ton of time for individual work: I had meetings from 11-3:30. Plus, the dogs would get 20 minutes, not 45.
Choice B: also a good one, because I am (by far!) most productive in the mornings, but would leave me with no super bloom of positivity, which I need to inject regularly into my spirit.

I chose A. The rest of the day flowed smoothly.

So what’s the problem, you might ask? The fact that I had a choice. Yes, friends: Freedom is what’s making mornings hard for me these days.

Indeed, choice is making my life feel murky, which may sound wrong to those of you who love a day with no agenda. But if you’re like me, who appreciates the school year more than summer break, you probably feel my pain.

Back in the day, when I was the lunch maker, the other-shoe finder, the homework signer, the carpool driver, my days had definite structure and many points of purpose. That structure did start painfully early, mind, but it set up the rest of my day for success. (See above: endorphin super bloom.) If I wasn’t out running by, say, 5:45 am, I wasn’t running that day. Given my glass-half-empty disposition and mental restlessness, that wasn’t a wise choice.

So I ran more days than not, then spent the rest of ping ponging between work and kids and house and, around 6:30, collapsing to watch Wheel of Fortune with the rugrats, who thought I was brilliant because I could solve the puzzles with half the letters turned. One day, I thought to myself as Vanna lit up letters with the touch of her hand, I will have more time to myself.

As it happens, that one day is now here. One kid is in college and texts mostly to ask if she can charge Chipotle, and one kid is a high school junior with packed days that provide plenty of—dare I say it?—structure.

I have what I lusted after when I was piloting a minivan wearing sweaty capris: a relaxed morning with few tight commitments. (And I also have two near-adult kids who are doing well—something, I realize, shouldn’t be taken for granted.) With all this freedom, I should be writing another book, I should be meditating for more than 7 minutes, I should be learning to knit or tackling the classics or expanding my culinary range beyond tacos and chicken curry. I should at least be rejoicing in the silence.

But I’m not. As I lie in bed drooling and hitting snooze as I try to solidify a fulfilling plan for my solo mornings, I am longing for the 36-things-on-my-list-starts-with-a-sweat days. I mean, maybe bringing surprise birthday cookies to a 6th-grade class isn’t really a higher calling, but those kind of tasks cemented my day, my schedule, and a big part of my identity. I miss them.

I, like every other parent, has been in this kind of transition before. I made it out, and I can do it again. (Plus, I kinda have no choice: time is not stopping. Ben is now 17.) Transitions are messy and longer than I typically want them to be, but I know the best way to find a groove in this new chapter is by building schedule that doesn’t just rely on my willpower.

On Tuesdays and Thursday, I lead a virtual strength circuit for Many Happy Miles. Those are my smoothest mentally. I show up because I said I was going to show up. I get similar good-morning vibes when I sign up for a virtual group ride on Zwift. I mean, nobody really knows me or cares if I show up, but having a specific time with a chosen workout gives me enough oomph to rally.

What I need to fill in the gaps are more hiking dates with friends (going 10 miles with Katie on Saturday reminded me how quickly time passes when conversation flows), more bike rides with Grant (which will happen as the weather starts to cooperate more), and at least one weekly class, TBD, outside my house.

None of this is terribly complicated or hard to execute. All it requires is a little more planning and a little less hitting of the snooze button. And Lord knows, I have plenty of practice in both of those areas.

How do you navigate transitions—or your kids getting older?

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