Monday, March 04, 2013

the school series : routine's rhythm

For the first time in a very long time we have a strict five-day-a-week routine and it's taking us a while to adjust. Slowly, slowly we're getting there.

Routine is not a word that I've used in my mothering experience. I never adhered to the belief that babies need a routine and so I never established one. Instead I found comfort in rhythm; I found it in my breath, my body and my days - a constant, ever flowing, ever changing rhythm.


But there is no denying that the school week is routine based. The time frame is strict and there is little leniency. But you know what, I actually like it, and I'm learning that however demanding school is, it does provide some beautiful lessons, mostly for me and my rhythm. 


                              I think as you move into a new stage of parenting it's only natural to reminisce on the previous years, to reflect on how they were navigated and explored. I distinctly remember reading The Rhythms of Parenting in the Sunday paper, tearing out the article and sticking it on the fridge. It stayed there for a good while, the white paper slowly yellowing, and I read it often. My favourite quote and the one I kept returning to was this:


"...by the time the child (and parents) emerge from the cocoon of infancy into toddlerhood and beyond, it is incredibly helpful to the parents, and soothing and stabilising for the child, to have predictable rhythms to most days' events." 


Indeed, children thrive on predictability, days that are guided by an eating, playing, exploring, sleeping rhythm. Since Che was two I have implemented a very simplistic rhythm which changed, of course, with the seasons, the arrival of Poet and my increasing work-load. Now as the school timetable influences my week I have introduced a few things to ensure a smoother, calmer mama rhythm (as opposed to shrieking and attempting to get everyone out the door by 8:35am)

  • I set my alarm and get up early. I often struggle with this but once I'm up I'm so grateful for the still and the quiet - it's a beautiful way to begin. I usually start with a cup of tea and then I'll pack Che's lunch. Sometimes I write, sometimes I put washing on, sometimes I just sit.
  • I set Che's uniform out the night before to ensure it's ready and clean (which has been handy considering 2 days out of 5 there isn't a clean uniform to be found, hence a late-night laundry session).
  • I've officially declared Thursday night "pizza night" and I always put aside a few pieces for Che's lunch on Friday (not having to make a sandwich or a wrap come Friday is rather nice)
  • I work between 9-3 and then do a few hours in the evening when the children have gone to bed. Having such a definite schedule has ensured I work quite efficiently, even when writer's block strikes.
  • In the afternoons I'm noticing that we're establishing a new rhythm around Che - afternoon tea and a chat, homework and an early dinner. I've found that dinner by 5:30pm is the best for children; it calms the witching hour (to a degree).
Of course, sometimes none of the above happens and I fumble my way through, trying my hardest not to lose the plot. On those days I remind myself that there's always tomorrow.

As for homework....well, Daniel and Che work together on the balcony while I prepare dinner. I hear snippets of their discussions, always peppered with silly stories. And sometimes I come across the "extra" creations and smile big. Like this:

"I sat on my cat. My cat is flat. I am a flat cat. The cat sat on my head. The cat did a poo on my head so I washed my hair with shampoo. It didn't work. I still had poo on my head. The end."

...just today the lovely Meagan launched "Whole Family Rhythms" - a guide to creating seasonal, weekly and daily rhythms for your family. Pop over there for a little inspiration...


44 COMMENTS

  1. i totally second the early dinner, our 3 year old has dinner at 4.30pm and it makes all the difference between crazy and calm (and she still tends to eat a fair bit when the rest of us sit down at 6.30).
    i do wish i could get up early-i need to retrain my body to go to bed earlier somehow...
    and what a beautiful photo of poet, it has the atmostphere of a painting, i love it x

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    1. I'm still feeding Poet during the night so sometimes I just can't get up...but the intention is always there. It makes me really appreciate the weekend though...with a sweet little sleep-in each day, bliss x

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  2. Yes I much prefer rhythm than routine, but Steve and I are both in school and Casper is in daycare three days so sometimes it is more of a routine too. I am about to put Casper in the bath. I love bedtime/bathtime. It is my favourite part of the day. The most relaxing and relieving.

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  3. This is a lovely post, thank you. I loved the linked article too. Here in Norway parenting rhythms and routines are a little different and there are good and bad points. Almost everyone works full time once their child turns 1 (the child can stay with a parent at home till then because of the amazing parental benefits). But working hours and childcare facilities are tailored for families (8-4) and Norwegians love to eat dinner early. (Often around 4 or 5.) I have really a lot to juggle at the moment with two jobs, norwegian classes, and teaching preparation for the autumn, but it is nice to think of it all in terms of rhythm rather than a race. There are only so many hours in the day after all and when I am with my son I am truly present with him - the other things must wait...

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  4. routine and rhythm, soul sisters, who knew.

    xo em

    p.s (time consuming much? hello!) ;)

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  5. I really enjoyed this post Jodi. We are slowly finding our daily family rhythm and am really enjoying the freedom that it creates. Dinner around 5:30 is wonderful for us too, giving us ample time for a family stroll to the bay and back before bath-time. I like the idea of arising before our little girls wakes, but it just hasn't happened yet. You have inspired me to make the leap to setting my alarm rather than simply waking up when she does. x

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  6. we always have trouble returning to the routine of school when we are finished with summer break. you would think that after so many years we would be used to it, but my boys love the rhythm of summer, and find it hard to be back in their desks after being able to move their bodies when ever they wanted. Routines always help us find our school rhythm much quicker though. I will have to check out "Whole Family Rhythms". I am always looking for ways to improve my own rhythm and routine with the boys. thanks so for sharing your thoughts. xo

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  7. i am all for rhythm with parenting this time around and i probably was back when my big girls were little (18 years+ ago) but i called it routine then. had anyone even heard of rhythm? certainly not me! i think it is so important though not only for little ones but also for the parents. everything just seems to flow a lot better when everyone knows what to expect. x

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  8. Oh, I remember that article! I loved it. I'm such a routine person, that the rhythm idea worked - even for me! I'm into the second year of school, and am finding that the rhythm and routine is working for me. Yes, early mornings are crucial for me otherwise everything goes pear shaped. Yes, mothers do actually set the mood for the day, and the earlier the start, the better for me.

    Enjoy those rhythms! (Beautiful post.) x

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  9. Those rhythms you make now will stay with you a long time after those little ones are gone and you will come to love them. I know people who rail against them - Lord knows, I did - but there is something in carving out the beat of your family's drum.

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    1. wise words Katie...and very comforting x

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  10. I have experience of the strict routine but nowadays I'm glad to say there's a lot more flow and it's a lot more comforting. Children take comfort in knowing what's coming up next, and so do I. I like that we do something in the morning - anything from going out for a bike ride to having friends over. I love that we wind down around 12pm and get ready for lunch and naps all round - Luca still likes the occasional nap. I write, cook and read then we sit round the table for afternoon tea. A little afternoon activity and I like to have their dinner ready for 5pm. After dinner is often the best time of day - taking turns on the swing, pottering in the garden, bringing the washing in... Sometimes rhythm can be beautiful, but of course it can be monotonous at times too! x

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  11. I am find with 3 children, one of them at school a "routine" is essential. Albeit a very gentle one. I have never had a routine with my babies, they drank and slept whenever needed. I find now the household is less frantic when everything is in place and organised. We let in all go in the weekends though xo

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  12. I loved reading this Jodi. We have worked on a rhythm since cooper was born, thanks to Meagan @ this whole family actually. She was the first person I had heard talk about rhythms in the home and it felt great. I'm still working on our rhythm now though since Indiana came along, life is so different with two. Like you I find that getting up early makes a big difference, if i can shower before they both wake my day flows much better, xx

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  13. Jodi, a lovely reflection and a topic one I find myself thinking about a lot too as a mama and working (somewhat) from home. I hear you about rhythm and routine, I've always thought it strange when staunch followers of the "strict-parent-enforced-routine" look at other ways of parenting as haphazard or (my most disliked) "accidental" when all of life is a jumble of rhythms and routines that ebb and flow, my journey has been embracing the different needs of each stage of my family and that takes time, careful listening, and I think a peacefulness too, in our heart, that we can't do it all/be everything/control all outcomes - but we can live intentionally, we can embrace the here and now with a force and love xx

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  14. Hi Jodi, Thanks for sharing my link- I am so very excited about it! I totally agree- early dinnertimes are a must on school days. North is very tired and hungry when he gets home and I find the earlier I get a big dinner into him the happier he is to play outside in the backyard with Indi in the evening while I do dishes, fold laundry, run the bath and get the house back in order. Then it's lights out by 7:30 all in preparation for another big day! xx m.

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  15. a beautiful post, jodi. it's so lovely to hear other families' routines/rhythms to see how they differ from our own. it's also lovely to see our routine barely differs from yours. the early morning rises I have struggled with the past few weeks, but you are so right - as hard as it is to drag yourself out of bed some mornings, the peace and stillness is worth it every time. we eat early too, I aim for 5pm, definitely by 5.30 otherwise I just know things are not going to end well.. it is taking some time to get used to the new school routine too. I am so glad there's only four weeks left! x

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  16. I too am trying to find 'rhythm' with the school schedule. This is our first year of 'real school' too, and we're gradually finding our feet on this new path. I'm finding it easier to have my daughter's school lunch made the night before. We {all four of us, including baby} have dinner at 5 / 5:30pm, then I bath the kids. Then while they play 'quietly' and mingle with their Dad, I clean up the kitchen and make the school lunch. Once the kids are in bed I can then work, write or relax....and it is one less job to deal with in the morning. As for getting up early....I too am still up regularly with a light-sleeping 15month old so am exhausted most mornings. By morning he is in our bed, and if I get up - he too wakes [light sleeper, as I said} so I can't rely on mornings to get much done :)
    Thanks for your insight and ideas Jodi.
    Claire xx
    http://blog.scissorspaperrockdesigns.com.au/

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  17. beautiful written, we struggle here too, every day is so different its crazy how a few minutes can change the morning.

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  18. I like the idea of rhythm versus routine. I have never thought about it before but rhythm seems so calming were as routine seems so mechanical. This was very beautifully written.

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  19. Lovely post. I feel like we need a better balance between routine and rhythm in our house right now. With two biggie kids (11 and 9) and two littlies (5 and 3) it's a fine balance. I could do with more routine around how I "work" (in the loosest sense of the word - I don't earn any money yet) but need more of a rhythm when the evening comes. I miss those days pre-school, the days seemed longer and slower. I think the kids bickered less :)

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  20. Wow, this is great! I really enjoyed reading about your routine. I too wake up early and really enjoy the peace and quiet of the day while the sun is still rising.

    I was an elementary school teacher for three years (first, second, and third grade) and I agree that children feel more secure and thrive knowing that there is a predictable routine. On days that were particularly out of routine, say special visits or field trips, the students tended to have bad behavior and excessive energy. I myself am a creature of habit. I can get a little lazy though and do nothing at all some days. This year I made it goal to have a morning and night routine. So far, some days have gone very well :)

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  21. Oh those early morning rises! I need to implementing that into our routine, but it is so difficult for me. I have to be gentle and keep encouraging myself that I can do it! Just think of all the extra things I could get done... ;)

    Beautifully written and so very inspiring.

    Rhythm and peace go hand-in-hand x

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  22. With my first child, Tamika, she was not into routines or patterns, liked the unexpected. Changing things up constantly kept her happy. However, with Jarvis, he is a boy or routines and rhythm. Days filled with similar patterns, keeps him happy and energised.
    I have never understood the witching hour. But for Jarvis we have tamed the beast by, feeding at 5;30, longest bath possible (he adores the water), massages, and combing his hair (it calms him), second dinner with us at 6;30. Then we get a happy, smiling, if not crazy playful boy until he goes to bed at 8;30.

    http://iliska-dreams.blogspot.com.au/

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  23. I LOVE TOO MUCH YOUR POST!


    SELENE OVER THE POND

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  24. oh how i love the idea of rhythms over routine. and even though this stage of my life is forced into a routine, i long for a return to rhythms.

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  25. You have reminded me of how important and wonderful it can be to get up BEFORE the kids. I'm starting tomorrow!

    Thank you for the links, too!

    xo
    cortnie

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  26. What a beautiful post – I adore Che's cat poo nonsense story!

    I'm struggling with even basic rhythms and routines at the moment, with a mixture of pregnancy (those awful early months are just over) and two sick babes.

    You're words calmed me and reminded me that it will all turn back to normal soon, with a little bit of effort on my behalf of course.

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  27. I find that establishing rhythmns helps keep me in the present moment, which is so important when I am with my daughter. I will check out the link too. I also joined the 52 week portrait a week. I'm not sure if you started it, but I love the idea and have seen it around the blogosphere.
    xo green gable
    http://annaofgreengable.wordpress.com/

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    1. I doubt that I was the first person who ever posted 'a portrait a week' but yes, I did encourage others to join and have been so overwhelmed by the positive response. Delighted to hear that you're involved x

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  28. Hi Jodi,
    Before we had our baby I had a beautiful morning routine. I have found the mornings a challenge because it has been difficult to implement what I was doing. To keep me calm and centred, I created an evening routine like I had for mornings and I know that in no time I will get them back. xxx

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  29. rhythm. I don't think we have that here at all!

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  30. i never thought about the difference between rhythm and routine... Zoe Tiare started the nursery when she was just 1 year old (i needed to come back to a full time job) but now that i'm home with this new pregnancy i understand that now i'm following my and her rhythm... and it's such more peaceful! i hope not to come back ever to routine!!
    keep posting about it please!

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  31. For routine I do like making dinner in the morning when my younger child is self-occupied with play. I nip into the kitchen to think about dinner, potter a bit and make it with calm and love. That way when it comes to the actual time to dine I'm not surrounded by screams of hunger whilst trying to think of what to make. That's my routine tip. :)

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  32. We have plenty of routines since I am working full time and the boys are in day care. I do love the rhythm of weekends without plans, though, when we get up whenever we like, play as much as we want to and just enjoy being together. I wish i could have more that kind of rhythm in daily life too. Might have to think about how to do that.
    I am a bit envious of those managing to get up early during the week and have some alone time. Whenever I set my alarm to 5 am to have one quiet hour of yoga and writing, I can be sure that one of my - otherwise - sleepy-hats wakes up 10 minutes before the alarm rings. But, then I also love peaceful mornings with my kids, so not having to hurry because we're all up so early is rather nice :-)

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  33. I believe in rhythm too but lately trying to work around a little routine for us to go out m clean house etc. I can only imagine the nightmare I will have once Bebe goes to school with unions, lunches ...dinner time is usually in the morning or afternoon in between play sessions with LO. I used to enjoy oohing so much but now try and stick to easy options.

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  34. Great post. Routine is something that I struggle with as a mother. I have always been good with going with the flow or "figuring things out" but routine has never been my strong suit. I know my son craves some amount of routine though. Luckily we still have some time before school...so we'll "figure it out" along the way. :)

    So glad I found your blog by the way!

    http://hennablossom.com/

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  35. I loved read this post. I'm always scared about routines with my 2 year old son, but it's realy true that they help in a wealthy life!

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  36. Our world has been centred around daily rhythms as opposed to routines too. However, now that our big girl has started kindy, I'm finding school dictates things a bit more in our household... I'm trying to use this to our advantage though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jodi x

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  37. I feel the same Jodi, rhythms are so important. We are just finding a new one with the arrival of a new baby. Thanks for the link too - i shall go and explore.

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