As the school year arrives and the cornfield out my window begins to turn, parents near and far can be heard cheering for the return of ROUTINE. Not to say all moms and dads are happy about constantly-in-your-face-family-time being over, but I mean… most of them are. 😉
Anyway, regardless of what kind of schooling your kids are getting, if they are over the age of 3 this is the time of year routine tends to take over. And most of us are glad.
The beauty of routine has always brought me some degree of comfort. As a teacher, I loved the start of the school year. Fresh and clean, stretching out before us, specific expectations and schedules ready to be followed. It gives me structure that my creative/lazy/pinball-resembling-brain does not have on its own. I am not one who defaults to schedules and healthy habits. As much as I love making lists, my follow through is not so great.
As a teacher I learned that children thrive under routine as well. I’m not talking about every-second-of-the-day scheduled routine, or extracurricular practices 4 nights a week. I’m talking about knowing what to expect. Breakfast and dinner around the same time every day (we are terrible at the latter), a consistent plan for right after school, the same place for homework every day. When my kids are allowed to lazy-around all morning in the summer or on a Saturday, we always have more behavioral issues than if they had some kindof schedule to start off their day.
|Even if the schedule is,
“First we are going to eat breakfast and get dressed and then we are going to do puzzles all morning.”
Adults are the same. It’s really hard to get into a routine at home, and every inch of my being resists most attempts, but many aspects of my life are finally learning the beauty of routine.
Advantage #1: I know where things are.
When I pull in the garage, my sunglasses and keys go on the dash.
My meds stay in the cubby in my van because I will see them there. My chapstick too.
The phone plug-in is next to my bed and usually stays there, so at night I can easily remember to plug in my phone. (Definitely learned that one from my husband. With a brain wired like mine, sometimes these things don’t seem so obvious without being told.)
I have managed to train myself to leave these items in these spots or I would be lost at all times. (It’s bad enough with the rest of the things I own.)
Advantage #2: My kids know what to expect.
I certainly have a lot of room for improvement, especially on this one. But I am inspired by how well this works for the routines we HAVE managed to establish.
Bedtime always includes a story. Eddie gets at least one, maybe 2 books read to him in bed before going to sleep. (Depends on how well-behaved he has been that evening.) The girls lay down and read for at least 15 minutes before lights are off. This has been such a good way for everyone to settle down in our family.
On church and school mornings there is no television. I know it works for some families, but for us it is a disaster. So everyone in our family has gotten pretty used to that rule now. If a child is all ready to go and we aren’t leaving yet, there might be an opportunity for said child to play an electronic device. But honestly, my girls pretty much take all the time they are given to prepare for their day. #liketheirmom
When we are guests somewhere, and the visit is wrapping up, I pretty much ALWAYS give a 5 or 10 minute warning. This has served us quite well. I’m not saying they NEVER have meltdowns when it’s time to leave, but it could definitely be worse. (Usually it’s only one out of the 3 kids who struggle with this, so it helps that the other 2 are compliant.)
Advantage #3: The house isn’t as messy as it could be.
When I fill a laundry basket with clothes that I know I’m not folding right now, there is a certain corner of my room that basket goes. It doesn’t sit in my living room (as often as it used to), it goes directly to my room. The living room doesn’t get overrun with laundry then, just toys and books.
Same with my kitchen, to a degree. All the dirty dishes go to the left of the sink. Even if THAT counter is overflowing with dishes, at least the other counters aren’t. PLUS, when it’s time for someone to fill the dishwasher or fold clothes, everything is in one place. When my kids are looking for clean clothes, they know where to find them.
Look, fellow freebird-mama, I love a spontaneous day just as much as the next Type B personality. But, I encourage and URGE you to identify just a couple spots in your day that could use some help, and try to weave in a little routine.
[Words of warning: 1) Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t try to add routine to every minute of your day. Failure is guaranteed. 2) And don’t expect everyone to “get it” the first time. It takes time.]
Nevertheless, if you set a goal or two for yourself and stick to it, you will eventually see results. You’re going to need to find your sunglasses tomorrow and put your kids to bed and make dinner, whether you’ve established a routine for those things or not. So wouldn’t it be nice to have a plan when that moment is staring you down?
What is a simple routine that has saved your sanity? Your everyday-habit might be a game-changer for someone else!