Routines and Summer

Brushing Teeth

I thought for a while about making chore cards for our son and so spent one day photographing everything he did. Turns out, he has a lot of chores and it would be more trouble to pull out the cards for every single thing. Chore card idea will be saved for future possible use!

I was thinking earlier today about how hard it is, yet how welcome it feels, to get back into a steady morning routine. When my son finished with school in June, I had put no thought into how I would handle having him home every morning and day. In retrospect, I think our summer would have been much easier on us all if I’d kept up our morning routine and tried to form some sort of routine for activities through the week.

I look at a routine as a plan, or a framework: I make a plan for how I’d generally like my mornings to go, and by doing it often enough it becomes more, well, routine.

Some days it doesn’t work out. But having it helps me remember that I like to wear my watch, and makes sure that I change P’s diaper before an early appointment (please tell me I’m not the only one).

Routines can both cost us and save us money. If your routine is the proverbial Starbuck’s latte at 3pm, it’s obviously costing you money. If your routine is clipping coupons every Sunday evening, then you’re probably saving some money. I dropped my routine of checking food levels in the grab-and-go snack bag every morning after breakfast this summer, with the result that we needed to buy snacks or lunch several times on a long outing.

I’m a person who needs routines, but will easily fall out of them or into unproductive routines (even after a long time) if I don’t have a check-up with myself every so often to make sure my routine is working or hasn’t gone awry. This summer, I’m abashed to admit there were many mornings I was rushing my kids and myself, forgetting to brush their teeth, not making time to stop and play trucks or read a book, all because I let go of my normal routine and slid into one of lying around and sipping coffee while watching my kids play.

Instead of just “rolling with it,” treating the summer like one giant vacation from routines, I needed give some thought to the changing situation (my son being around all day, every day) and how that would affect things.

I’m not saying this to beat myself up. A little self-reflection is good for trying to figure out why certain behaviors have cropped up in myself and my kids, and helps me remember my priorities.

My routines are set up around my priorities. The spot on the rug? Not a priority in the morning. Exercising? Dental hygiene? Reading Corduroy? Definitely morning priorities.

And lately, since I’ve recognized (somewhat late in life) that routines are useful to me, I’ve been trying to create a few, or thoughtfully analyze the ones that have spontaneously formed. Like a post-kids-bedtime routine where I don’t fall into bed, weepy with exhaustion and fully clothed. I’m shooting for making lunches or other food prep/kitchen task, brush teeth AND FLOSS, wash face, and change into some pajama-like items. I think I can make this happen, but it’s going to take a few months of doing stuff when I just plain don’t want to. And on days when I can stand upright a single second past 8:30pm, I am not going to beat myself up for not completing my routine. I’ll get up tomorrow and try again.

Yeah, I do floss, but I manage it about once every three days. My teeth are getting older–don’t they deserve the daily massage?? See Dental hygiene, above.

(Most) kids love routines, and repetition in general, and my son is right there. Plus we’re trying to teach him to do a few simple chores without complaining, dragging feet, etc. The epiphany hit me this morning that, WHAT IF I kept the exact same morning routine going for him all year, every day, no matter what? Wake up, have some parental snuggle time, eat breakfast, choose clothes, change clothes, clothes in hamper, brush teeth, then play.

After every meal he pushes his chair in, carries his dishes to the sink, scrapes them into the trash, and is learning how to load the dishwasher. He never complains about any of this, even for a second, and my Ah-Ha! moment earlier today tells me that it’s because after every meal, no matter what, he is expected to complete those tasks. Sometimes he forgets, but given a gentle reminder he runs right over and finishes it all.

That routine, keeping that same order to those tasks, helps him remember to do those things. I think it’s high time we apply the routine to some other things, like my flossing and exercising, his morning, and P’s potty training. And if that helps me not spend money on senseless snacks, that’s an awesome bonus.

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Have you fallen into any unproductive routines? And if you have kids, how do you handle introducing a new routine to them?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Thank YOU, Kelly, for stopping by to check it out. Someday I hope it looks as welcoming and fun as yours!

  2. I’m so glad it’s going well! And your contracter sounds like a gem! Congrats on your new site.

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