Everything I read back when I was a first time mom emphasized the importance of establishing a schedule for your child. Routine, apparently, was a major key in raising well-adjusted kids.
So that’s what I did. We ate on a schedule. We potty trained on a schedule. We even turned our bedtime routine into a ritual so ceremonious that, in hindsight, border lined ridiculous.
I was only doing what I thought was right. This is what any of us mothers are doing at any given moment, right?
However, I certainly wish some case studies would have accompanied that routine advice, because I may have created little monsters. I don't really want to call my kids
anal, er, persnickety but if the shoe fits ...
Sure my kids are turning out healthy and happy but only when everything goes according to plan, which let's face it, hardly ever happens in the real world. These are the life skills that are required to survive in our world: going with the flow, thinking on one's feet and remaining flexible. Yeah um, my kids are hardly able to do that.
Spur of the moment plans? No way. Last minute change to the schedule? Nerve racking. I’m beginning to admit they don't handle change well and I'm grieved to think I did this to them.
Granted as I had more kids and my experience in the parenthood matured, I did lighten up a bit. I learned, for example, that if we ate later than our regular time the world didn't come crashing to an end. Yet, interestingly enough, the bigger our family grew the more we benefited from routine.
How else was I going to survive five kids? I was forced to run a tight ship or face inevitable mutiny.
I imagine if I had a therapist, she’d say that my need to organize our days, live according to a schedule and, plan a week’s worth of meals, was my way of feeling as if I had some sort of control in a largely uncontrollable situation.
She’d be right. I organize to feel productive. I establish a bed time so that I have something to look forward to everyday. I have a jumbo size calendar on my fridge, not because I love staring at 30 days worth of errand running and taxi cab driving, but because if I don’t write it down I will feel overwhelmed with the enormity of responsibilities.
And all of this works until it doesn't.
When there’s a last minute play date, or we run out of milk, or someone gets sick - which happens regularly - we flounder a bit and struggle to find our footing. It's like we move through life just fine as long as the path is predetermined. An unexpected option isn’t exciting, it’s a stressor.
This disappoints me because I recognize that there is beauty in spontaneity. I know that there is a big wide world outside of my preset plans and I don't want to miss it.
That's why I am intentionally trying to ease up on family’s schedule. Either that or I’m just getting too old to care. Take your pick but the end result is a momma who is striving to be more malleable.
I just wish my kids would see the benefits of my new found flexibility. Actually, I think we have time over the weekend to discuss this very notion. Where's my calendar? Perhaps I’ll pencil in a discussion on the benefits of spontaneity. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so. That’s why!
Stephanie is mother, early childhood educuator, public speaker and blogger at www.stephaniesikorski.blogspot.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org