I'm a creature of habit. Quite obsessively so. I have habits to keep my habits habitually habited.
Yeah. I'm one of those.
Here's an example so we're all on the same page:
When it's bedtime, I ...
put my yellow cup on the end table down by the couch so I'll have it when I work-out in the morning (if I manage to get up early enough),
go upstairs and turn on the heating pad at the foot of my bed (I despise cold tootsies),
move the decorative pillows off the bed,
turn on my bedside lamp,
remove my jewelry, glasses and deposit my cell phone next to my "treasure box" as Ashley calls it,
head to the bathroom to floss, brush and Listerine (in that order),
while burning away the flesh in my mouth from the above, retrieve vitamins for Brett and I,
quick potty break,
read for a bit minutes,
and then lights out.
If I do something a little out of order, I feel a bit funky. If I miss something altogether, I feel twitchy.
For my readers who like to shake things up and have a different plan each day, this probably sounds horribly boring and tedious. For me, it's the source of my sanity.
I have been the same way with my kids.
We have a nap-time routine, a meal-time routine, a bath-time routine and a bed-time routine. And I've always liked having the comfort of tradition and structure to our days.
Knowing this about me, you can imagine how challenging it has been in the recent months as we have faced a few, new family schedules. Schedules that threaten to shake up the "we've always done it this way" groove that I live in. (Let the twitching begin!)
Norah and Ashley have moved up a level in gymnastics and we have a new weekly schedule of practices. Now we are scheduled to be at Kidzplex five afternoons a week with classes starting at 4:15. This new plan means that we won't be leisurely walking up to school to pick up kids (ever again) but instead snagging them from the crosswalk and zooming to the gym, snacking as we drive, only to arrive with just enough time to change clothes and make sure pony tails are secure.
Lydia has begun to haphazardly nap. Every now and then, she rolls, romps and reads instead of sleeping. I still require her to stay in her bed but I have to be prepared for a potentially cranky little three-year old for the afternoon. This almost always guarantees an easy bedtime (she's utterly exhausted by 7:30) but it also almost guarantees a clingy kid when it comes time for me to make dinner. I am flirting with the possibility of someday being nap-free and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. What if I still need a nap?!
Aaron has started a class two afternoons a week at the rock climbing gym. Gratefully it is at the same time as Norah's practices on Tuesdays and Thursday (shifted just enough to allow time to drop both off and pick both up with 15 minutes of each other) and the two gyms are just five minutes away from each other. He has needed something just for him, but I was hesitant to jump into another team sport. I can't imagine fitting in weekend games or the need to fundraise. Shudder ... It is an ideal situation for him and us ... but it is still shaking up our norm.
As we headed into this new schedule, I initially had it in my head that we would fit these new activities into our current routine. It didn't take long, however, for this plan to derail. Not at all. In fact, on day one it became obvious to me that life was in need of some tweaking.
Last Tuesday, we finished school, we cartwheeled, we belayed and we all made it home for dinner. That night as we sat around the kitchen table, the conversation turned to what the big kids needed to do before bedtime. Finish dinner, work on math, read for school and take showers. All in forty-five minutes. Hmmm ...
As you can imagine, that time evaporated rather quickly. As our traditional bedtime neared, the big kids were still needing to read for their classes. We made the decision to pass on our family book time and let them read alone. After twenty minutes I would tuck them in and sing and pray with them. As they headed off on their own, I settled in for a few minutes of me-time.
But I didn't enjoy it.
This wasn't how we ended our day, doing our own thing and scattered around the house.
We pile on the couch.
We share our "bests" and "leasts" of the day.
We pray together.
We predict together what will happen next in the chapter book I read aloud.
Then it's off to bed for back rubs and lullabies.
That's how I want to usher my kids off to dream land.
When the timer beeped, alerting us that our twenty minutes were up, I called Norah down to Aaron's room.
And I tweaked.
"We're going to try something a little different. I'm glad you got your homework done, but now I need my time with you. What were the bests and leasts of your day?"
In the glow of Aaron's bed-side lamp, we talked, we prayed, we read and we sang. And we started a new routine.
A new routine that will once again do its job of carving out our time together; making sure that we can fit in all the "have-to-stuff" with the "want-to-stuff"; preserving that sacred time to be piled on Aaron's bed and sharing about our day. That's the purpose of a routine away ... making sure there is time for everything we want to do.
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens: (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
A time to get your homework done ... and a time to snuggle with your mom.