My dear mother-in-law had NINE children. I learned so many things from her! One of the things she taught me was that when there was a transition in the normal routine of the house it took at least two weeks for a new routine to emerge. She was reflecting on the spring when the children were out of school, and again in the fall when they started back to school. In each change of routine, it took awhile for the new routine to emerge and for everyone to feel settled in the ‘new normal’. During that redefinition time, she reminded me that it is important for mom to maintain the emotional atmosphere of the home. While everyone else is in flux, they look to mom’s steady calmness to draw strength from.
Another gem she shared with me was about her own routine. Imagine the laundry room in a house with nine children! I imagine it filled up quickly on a normal day; I shudder to think of the day everyone’s beds were changed! She helped me know that staying on top of the laundry was the key to a successful day. (I came to know there were many other keys to a successful day in a family with nine children!) She said, “If I could get the first load of laundry in by 8am, then I knew I was going to have a good day.” I think the key here is that she had a routine. She found that when she could stick to the structure of her morning routine, and get the first load started by 8am, then everything else fell into place more easily.
Your child feels more safe when there is a predictable routine around him. I found it helpful to label the routines of the day in my mind; for example; my morning routine is mostly my private series of tasks that I do before I leave my room in the morning; like stretching, showering, making my bed, a quick bible study, putting on makeup, prepare breakfast, etc. When I’m running late and leave some of those things out, and try to go back and pick them up during the day; I feel out of sorts and disorganized. If I don’t get started on time and do my tasks mostly in order, my day is a mess.
When you are the mother of nine, a dinner routine might look a little different from a smaller family. My mother-in-law knew what was for dinner every single morning, right after breakfast! Imagine! Serving 11 people at every single meal! You might not know what’s for dinner right after breakfast, but you’ll find your own routine surrounding the dinner menu. But I certainly learned that the earlier you know the answer to the dinner menu question, the more in control you feel. Meal planning has probably been redefined for you during coronavirus; as we try to limit our grocery trips and plan ahead more for meals. It might even be a refreshing new skill you’re exercising, to do some meal planning, make grocery lists and use leftovers in new ways.
Any set of tasks that you repeat every day can easily turn into a routine. You can help your child feel more in control as you help him create routines out of his tasks. A bedtime routine is a good place to start. Some children might enjoy a decorated checklist, others might want a post-it on the bathroom mirror, still others might be ready to help create their own. Even simple ‘rules’ like brushing your teeth after jammies, reading 3 books before lights out, or the same bedtime song and prayer are all helpful as they become steadfast routines your child can count on every night. The simple knowledge that there is predictability to his day while coronavirus looms outside might help your child feel more safe.
Blog written by WarmLine Member Patty Reis