Blog: The five stages of exit

The five stages of exiting

In 1969, pre-eminent psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published her model of grief, popularly known as the five stages of grief. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Recently, it has occurred to me that this model not only applies to the experience of illness and dying. It is equally descriptive when considering the five stages of exiting the house in the morning. 

Upon this realisation, I began conducting my own empirical studies, approximately 4-5 times a week. The study, an action research project in which I am an unwilling and entrapped participant, commences usually just after breakfast, sometime between 7.20 and 7.30 each morning.

It is at this time that I announce to the junior recipe testers what time we will depart for their place of formal education. I then ask them to get ready. My field notes, and their relevance to Kubler-Ross' theory, are found below.

The juniors immediate response to my announcement is denial. They deny that there is any need to go to school, that it is a school day, or that I made any suggestion that I was, in fact, going to take them to school given that it was, indeed, a school day.

Once it is undeniably established that they do actually need to go to school, denial shifts to the need to get dressed. Dressing, it seems, is optional. Nice to have, but not needed in their minds.

This stage of denial routinely accompanies a lot of huffing and whining. Protests range from a lack of readiness to wear a button up shirt to complaints that having to tie up two shoelaces makes ones arms unbearably tired and sore.

It is usually me who passes through the next stage of anger. I repeat my requests to dress and ready themselves, often through increasingly gritted teeth. On really desperate mornings, I bargain how many shoelaces I will tie vs how many the juniors will tie if only they will don the shoes in the first place.

If I'm very honest, and anthropological notes should always, if nothing else, be honest, some days I shout. More than I like to admit.

I then begin bargaining. I am not very good at this. My bargaining often sounds more like threatening. Then it becomes less like bargaining and rather resembles begging. Pleading perhaps.

Depression is a shared stage. I am usually depressed that we will never get out the front door and that you will never have any dinners cooked for you. I am miserable at the calls I will receive from first the school, then child protection services investigating why my junior recipe testers are not deposited at school.

Down the hall, the juniors become more and more depressed with the growing recognition that they may perhaps have to leave the house and go to their place of formal education. Perhaps in their pyjamas.

Finally there is some acceptance. I accept that I am never going to leave the four walls of our house. I accept I cannot convince my junior recipe testers to dress themselves, clean their teeth or make their beds. I make peace that I will never convince the juniors that two feet, resulting in two sets of shoelaces, can be managed with just one set of arms.

With a heavy sigh I refill the kettle to make another cup of tea.

At that point, the juniors emerge into the kitchen, ready to leave for school...