Monday, February 11, 2008

Routines vs. Rituals

My friend Lori invited me to join along with many of our friends and write a post about our family's daily routine. I really have been thinking about this topic and how I would respond for a few days now. My first reaction was embarrassment at the fact that my brilliant friends are able to keep to such awesome schedules and I can't. I never have been able to be so rigid... even on my mission. I am a planner, don't get me wrong, but my life is too different everyday for me to adhere to a time schedule so strictly. Between Paul's work and school, Abby's playgroup, church, my Tuesday night clubs and things that just pop up, I'm lucky to have a rough idea for the week, much less make a schedule that I could keep the same every day... I'd go insane or get depressed or overwhelmed or both just trying! No, instead, I plan in specific generalizations if that makes any sense whatsoever. For example, I meal plan 5-6 meals a week and go to the store with a shopping list, but I still leave some room for some last-minute inspiration in the aisles.

My family life is the same. We have rituals attached to the things we do as opposed to routines. Meal times are generally at the same times but even those times are altered depending on what's happening that day. What we do keep constant is the ritual, in this case, the prayer over the food which we take turns offering. If sandwiches are on the menu, I have to make them into reindeer or butterflies (just triangles really). Paul usually gets home from his early-morning job at about 8:00 a.m. which is also about the time Abby wakes up so he normally gets breakfast for her. She then gets to watch a couple of cartoons while Paul and I trade shifts as he takes a nap and I get up for the day. The TV then goes off until prime-time (and since the writers strike, it's not on every night). Throughout the day there is usually some kind of rough-housing with Paul and some kind of learning activities with me (reading, writing, cooking, art, etc.). We have playtime together, quiet time alone and she has some chores she does as needed (sorting the silverware from the dishwasher, getting out the dishwasher soap and putting it in the machine, folding washcloths, sorting socks, picking up toys, etc.) Of course, we can't fit all of this into every single day, but we get them done most days and that's good enough I hope. We have a very strict bedtime ritual involving teeth-brushing, face washing, story-telling (always starring Princess Abigail and her crazy adventures), kisses, hugs, prayer and if she feels like it, classical music (Chopin is her favourite, but sometimes she asks for Beethoven or Mozart... weird, I know). We have similar rituals attached to Family Home Evenings, car rides, and other things like that.

We are all pretty easy-going, flexible and adaptable people (you have to be if you have ever had to deal with US Immigration... planning is impossible!) Abby is able to function very well even when staying at other people's homes with us and even while traveling to England. I think that having rituals has given us , cohesion, constancy and closeness as a family and allows us to function with an ever-changing schedule. We have regular goal-setting sessions and that is always great for pointing out the things that need changing or prioritizing. I think I am going to make a rough schedule for cleaning the house... it just doesn't get done if I resort to the "do it when it needs doing" method.


Jenny said...

Speaking of rituals, don't you have a good book about this subject? I'd like to borrow it, please!

Love the post. I have two children obsessed with routine so we fit it more the the calvin and hobbes comic for a good portion of our day!

Qian Jia Ting said...

Thanks for sharing this, Bethany. I am finding this downright fun (I'm quite nerdy, I guess :) I just think it is really, really interesting to have a peek at how all my amazing friends are doing what they do. I love that you are exposing Abby to classical music and that she actually has preferences! I exposed Abraham to that as a baby but have really let it go. Thanks for the motivation to re-introduce that. So many great ideas and just very fun to read. Friends who are willing to share their lives is a tremendous blessing to me. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Love to read what you guys are up to, this one is a great insight into your days. It's great that you don't try to be rigid, I found that it doesn't work and leaves me feeling frustrated. Keep up the good work