Sometimes I think it’s impossible to have a maintain a schedule with any regularity when young children are involved. They always like to surprise you by changing things just when you are feeling comfortable. Two reliable naps a day, finally? You breathe a sigh of rest, and the next day it’s a naptime battlezone! Kids sleeping in until 7 a.m? Ahhh... I can wake up early and have a quiet hour by myself to start the day. Oh, but that toddler knows you’re up without him! He will adjust his schedule accordingly.
It seems that in these years with young ones, the routine of the day gets shifted according to the sleep hours (or lack of sleep). I am learning to have flexible expectations. It’s a necessity in order to stay sane.
I recently made a list of observations about myself and my kids. We had been going through a rough patch. Well, more accurately, I was going through a rough patch. A negative attitude, a feeling of being trapped, a perpetual cycle of just being angry and preoccupied. It was then I realized how my selfish desires were monopolizing my parenting (I wrote about that here). But also, I needed to make arrangements so all our needs got met, not just the kids.
One thing that has massively helped is to realize that my children and I each have natural rhythms of needs during the day. And these needs are different and unique to each of us. For example, Plum usually likes to start the day with books and cuddles. Little Bear is mostly content to toddle around and play on his own in the morning. So, I’ll make the effort to read with Plum for a bit, while Bear happily plays (i.e. dumps all the toys out and spreads them everywhere). After that, we all play and read together, or I’ll spend time with Bear while Plum continues reading on her own. It is a lazy start to the morning that usually gets us off to the right start.
Little Bear gets very clingy in the afternoon before dinner, and I get very agitated during this time if we don’t have something to occupy the pre-dinner “witching” hour. I have started hiding away toys to take out during this time (on a rotation) or turn on some dance music or just get outside. It doesn’t cure everything, but it helps most days.
My day flows better now that I am more flexible with when I study in my Bible. As much as I’d love to have a steady routine with this, it is just not possible right now. Instead of always trying to wake early (which usually gets sabotaged by little people), I can spend time in the afternoon or evening. I am letting go of perfect. As long as I am in the Word daily, I am seeing my attitude change and my heart filled.
Knowing where each of us are at helps me come up with ideas to meet each of our needs. It means giving Plum some independent play time during Bear’s afternoon nap so that I can have some time to myself. (This is still a work in progress, as Plum currently craves being with me ALL the time). It means having some planned activity to keep Bear happy in the afternoons. It means wiping down the table immediately after mealtime, and cleaning up dishes too (my own cleanliness standard, and necessity, as we use the dining table for art and other projects throughout the day). It means lots of giggles and chasing after dinner to get those sillies out before bed. It means conversation with my hubby, and hopefully a little reading in the evenings.
Recognizing a pattern of emotions during the day has helped me see unmet needs in myself and in my children. Then I can identify ways to meet as many of those needs as possible. Whether it’s instituting quiet time, waking a little earlier, planning ahead, or simply snuggling up to my dear child.
It’s not perfect, and it certainly doesn’t always happen like this. And, with everything, I know this will change as we all change. We are not static people, and neither are our days.