As a mother, I am slowly realising (after being beaten over the head several hundred times by my beloved partner!) that children thrive on routine. They are miniature creatures of habit, and find comfort and confidance in knowing that their little world works and stays the same. Why else do they act out, or have drastic changes in attitude and behaviour when their world as they see it, comes crashing down? (Such as the birth of a sibling, or moving to a new house.)
Routine is something that I struggle with, and always have. By nature, I am a spontanious individual; whether it is a product of my chaotic and inconsistant childhood, or just who I am, I rebel against routine with every fibre of my being. I need the excitement, and even the craziness that routine tends to suppress. And it's not just routine of doing certain things at certain times, I even have an innability to always put certain things in the same place everytime; my purse, for example. (Which always leads to a panic of "Where is my purse?" each time we leave the house.) I know Chris has long had issues with my lack of routine, as he also needs routine and consistancy to be truly happy in his life. But as a couple without children, we just dealt with it. I brought excitement and spark to our lives, and he kept us grounded. Now that we have the boys however, I am slowly (and occasionally doing so kicking and screaming!) coming around to the idea that routine is something very important to have in the lives of children.
I am also realising that routine does not mean you do the exact same thing, everyday. Instead, certain important daily milestones, such as nap, meal, or bedtimes occur at the same time of day or night.
I have tried to install new routines in our home several times in the past, but I always tried to completely revamp the way we did things. In the end they became failures as I could not adjust to all the changes, gave up entirely, and went back to the chaos that was before.
So like all new things, I've had to go about it in baby steps. Two weeks ago, I started by making sure the mealtimes were consistant: breakfast was at 7:30, snack at 9:30-10, lunch at 12, nap at 1:00, snack again at 3:00 (or whenever Lucien wakes up from nap), and finally dinner at 5-5:30. Lucien's bedtime was always supposed to be at 8 o'clock, but before we always struggled getting him down before 9. Since making meal and naptimes the same time, everday, we've barely had a fuss from him. We start toy cleanup at 7:00 (which has had the added benefit of getting him involved with chores), bath/shower at 7:30, and by quarter to 8 we're in bed, reading stories. Most of the time I don't leave the bedroom until 8:15, but we're getting there.
Then last week I started doing my cleaning first thing in the morning after breakfast. With only short interruptions for snack time, I do my best to have all the day's cleaning/chores done before lunch. Except of course laundry, which I never seem to see the end of!
All together, I think this has had a greater impact on myself than anyone else. By the time I get a chance to rest and relax after Lucien has gone to sleep, the house is always clean and tidy, and I feel better knowing that I don't have to catch up on a million things the next day.
The positive effects have also been noticable on Lucien. Nap and bed times are no longer the fight they once were, and all around he is just a more well behaved child. I know it's still early, but I think routine and consistancy of schedule is slowly creeping in to other aspects of our lives. In respect to dissipline, having a routine is also helping me with being consistant in parenting in general. If Lucien knows before he does something what kind of consequence he'll face, he's more likely to think twice about his behaviour. And if he makes mistakes, it will be no surprise what the result will be. Parents it seem, just need to be more like hobbits:
"...you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him."
I am always complaining too, that I never have the time in a day, a week, to get in everything I'd like to do done. With this routine, I'm finding that times like now, when both boys are sleeping, I have the opportunity to work on the blog, my knitting, or my artwork. I get a little me-time. On top of that; this week I am adding in a regular craft time, just after afternoon snack, for Lucien and I.
I wanted time to work with Lucien on his ABC's and numbers, and to explore colours and shapes, but before could just never fit it in. It doesn't have to be long, I figure if I can squeeze in half an hour, or 40 minutes focusing on this, then we're doing great!
All-in-all, for someone who is so easily distracted, this is going well. I do not become overwhelmed with the chores, and I find more time to just enjoy being a mom. I do worry what will happen once I have to go back to work, but I suppose once this routine becomes second nature, it will be much easier to adapt.