Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Creatures of Habit

A few days ago, Brett tackled one of my least favorite jobs ... cleaning up the dish drain.  The slimey, slippery, sludgy dish drain.  Ewww ... and thank you!  In the midst of his brave scrubbing (I say "brave" because it gives me the he-be-jeebies to get that close to the grime), he also cleaned the wire dish rack.  Such a wonderful and thorough fellow!  He took the silverware drain out and gave that a little scrub and then he washed the wire parts until they were white again.  Now we have a clean place to dry our clean dishes!

When he put it all back together, however, he moved the silverware drain to a different corner of the rack ... and since then I have been blindly dropping forks and spoons through the rack into the sink below - clink! - just because of this crazy force of habit!  True proof that we find comfort in a particular groove and we can get a bit out of joint if anything changes.  Even when we are washing dishes!

I think our kids are very much the same.  Creatures of habit.  Critters of comfort.  Little people of predictability.

Even when our babies were babies, we were very intentional about creating a rhythm to their days and their nights.  We would develop a "way" that we did things and then we would do it the same each time. For example, when we wound our little one down at night, we had a routine that we would follow.  Into pj's and a fresh diaper, time for nursing and cuddling, then snuggling and reading (even when they were itty-bitty) and then we'd say the same thing as we bundled them into their crib, "Goodnight, Sweetie.  I love you and I'll see you when it's time to wake up."  Every time.  Both Mommy and Daddy.  A habit of winding down to sleep.  I believe that even little Aaron at three months was able to anticipate that he was headed to his crib and there was a comfort for him in the rhythm of bedtime.

We still have a routine at bedtime, even though our "babies" are almost 9, 7, almost 5 and 2 years old.  We give the five-minute warning ... a head's up that bed time is quickly approaching.  Then it's time for everyone to gallop upstairs for pj's, toothbrushing and bedroom tidying.  When Daddy and Mommy can see that everyone is ready, we give hugs and the little ones head to one room with one parent and the big kids to another room with the other parent.  Once they are snuggled in their beds, we can chat about our days, share our "bests and leasts", pray together, read a book and sing.  Every night.  Whew!

It is certainly a commitment of time and energy, but I will tell you with all honesty that it is one of my favorite parts of my day!  One of my "Bests"!  Time to snuggle and get caught up about what they liked and didn't like about school or a play-date or the lack of a dessert. And I'm certain that the kids like it, too.  In fact, on those nights when we are back late from a birthday party or baseball game, they go a little crazy if we try to eliminate anything from the routine!  You can bet that there will be tears if we try to nix the chatting, the book, the praying or the song.  Creatures of habit.

This practice of predictability can be implemented into almost every aspect of parenting.  When we are at the kitchen table, we have a routine.  We give the dinner call, "Time to wash hands!" and then you can hear the herd of feet heading to the nearest bathroom.  As they come to the table, we encourage everyone to sit and wait for everyone to be served.  Then after we pray for our meal (and anything else that needs to be prayed for) we can dig in.  At the end of the meal, we have additional expectations:  ask to be excused, clear your place, wash hands and face and head upstairs or downstairs to play.  The same every meal.  Even little Lydia knows the routine and can follow the big kids through the motions.  And if someone does something out of order ... like snitching bites before we are all served (gasp!) you can bet there are six other eyes watching and three other little mouths ready to remind and correct!  Critters of comfort.

As we have begun the hard job of sending our older little people out into the world ... okay, so just to elementary school, but still ... they are gone from me!  We have found that a routine for leaving and coming home lends a large amount of comfort to their days.  Before they leave in the morning they have gone through the process of packing their backpacks and ensuring that they have all necessary papers.  Then they load up their parts and as they head out the door to the cul-de-sac "bus" we have the same interchange of "love you's" and "see you at the crosswalk's" and "have a great day's".  Even if we've had a particularly challenging morning, they leave with the same comforting, familiar words.

And when they walk back in those doors, they have their, "home from school" routine:  un-pack lunch boxes, un-load backpacks, pull out notes and homework, check in with Mom.  Not until they have properly landed do we jump into the next thing, be it friends, screen-time or chores.  It's a chance for them to catch their breath after a full day and a chance for me to check-in and see how they are and what sort of afternoon we are in for.  The same practices as we leave and come home.  Little people of predictability.

I know that I like to know what to expect in my day and I've seen that my children truly aren't any different.  And little of "the same old same old" isn't a bad thing in the midst of life ... this fun, exciting, crazy life!

Would you please take a moment and pray for my mom-in-love.  She is having surgery at 12 noon (Colorado time :) today. ... Thanks!


  1. Routine is so important and like you said can always be the most fun part of your day! Your kids will have so many good memories of their parents sharing this time with them.

    I'll be praying for your mom-in-law!

  2. I love the bests and leasts idea! Kids really are creatures of habit and I've noticed a routine makes a world of difference.

    I'll be thinking of your Mother-in-law! Hope the surgery went well.


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