ROUTINE – I know it sounds a bit boring, but apart from lots of love and a good sense of humour, few things are more important in a family with young children.
Without routine, family life is a little rudderless boat on a stormy sea surrounded by lurking icebergs – saying afloat is hard work, but progress in any direction is damn near impossible.
Before children, I wasn’t a routine kind of person. I liked to keep things spontaneous and associated routine with monotony and boredom. Even recently, I’ve thought we’ve fallen into a bit of a rut and I’ve yearned to shake things up and break from our daily and weekly schedule.
But be careful what you wish for.
In recent months our family’s life was turned completely upside down. We moved house yet again and spent six weeks in temporary accommodation.
Then there was Christmas and the long school holidays for which, preoccupied with other dramas, I’d failed to plan any strategic activities for our children.
Our family routine quickly went out the window. Our previously happily settled children (and parents, too) totally lost the plot.
This temporary episode has brought home the huge importance of fixed routine – though not, perhaps, the regimented schedule of the Von Trapp family, complete with marching and boatswain’s whistle.
Routine gives us some sense of control and allows us to accommodate more easily the little hiccups of life.
Certainly, young children, who really have very little control over their own lives, benefit from a good steady routine and the sense of certainty it brings. It is a kind-of security blanket that allows them to get on confidently with the things they enjoy – learning, playing, exploring the world.
So now with the new school year underway I’m busily re-establishing our routines and taking the opportunity to tweak our old way of doing things.
There’s a new regime of daily and weekly chores and a reward system for keeping bedrooms tidy. And I’m ruthlessly enforcing an earlier bedtime to ensure the kids are more rested and to make parental life just that little bit easier (maybe a boatswain’s whistle would be a good idea).
Although part of me still hates to admit it, it does feel good to get a bit of the old routine back into my own life – things like that first non-negotiable cappuccino in the morning, once the children are off to school, to my glass of wine and relax time with the other half when the children go to bed. Thank goodness for routine!