Routine. It’s a word with which I have a love-hate relationship. I think there’s a picture in Pinterestland that says, “I crave excitement, until I’m worn out and then I want routine. Until I get bored and then I crave excitement.” My life is often like this.
One thing I’m convinced of with children though – they need a routine. And they need it to the point of me wanting to set my own hair on fire for something new to happen around here. What I have to get my head around is the fact that to one, four and five year old eyes, everything is already new.
They wake up with a sparkle in their eyes, they love sitting around the dinner table learning that 4 + 2 is 6, every day is an adventure, going to the store is fun. There is so much to look at, feel, sense, hear: the world does not seem boring to them. And routines or predictability and familiarity, if you prefer, are the branches on which they hang their burgeoning world.
“It’s two! Time to watch TV. It’s nine! Time for chores and then school.” My daughter knows. And while it drives me crazy on days when we’re out and about and she complains that two o’ clock came and went and she didn’t get to watch her precious My Little Pony, I also know that because she only watches TV at two p.m. and not at any other time in the day, that time is now free of pleading, begging, trying to wrangle it out of me or fighting and misbehaving for it.
That leaves us with the day free to pursue other things.
My son hasn’t quite grasped that yet and so he will occasionally ask me if he can play video games, but I tell him that video games don’t get played until three p.m. He is allowed educational games on the computer however before then. And there are specific times in the day when we do not allow screens and have mandatory outside free play time.
How does this figure into time management? Even though I will say I absolutely hate routines, the truth is I perform better and get more done in a day if I know what is coming, what is expected of me and if I have allotted myself time in the day to do it.
These little people are not that different. They want to know what’s coming and when they can have it in a way that does not anger their parents. It’s a little like budgeting money: I can get what I want, I can even have a little discretionary “fun” money, if I learn to discipline myself to wait and not spend haphazardly.
Of course I fail, but when I do at least I know I’m not on track and then have a plan to get back in control. If I have no plan in place for our daily schedule, I have to begin each day over with each child and if that is enough to drive an adult up the wall, imagine what it does to children to whom everything is already new.