Only more important.
If we do not follow a routine, and I mean FOLLOW the routine faithfully, all hell breaks loose.
Although, just as innate as the routine, is the desire to buck the routine--to fly by the seat of your pants.
How many of us really are that spontaneous? Anyone?
Aside from using it as a line in a singles ad, you know, "I want to meet someone that loves spontaneous romantic exotic beach vacations," does anyone actually participate in such a thing?
I don't. And never have.
I mean, the most spontaneous things I do are either without the kids, or out of necessity.
Yes, a spontaneous (meaning not planned) trip to the grocery store, or the gas station, or even the pharmacy are all possibilities. And they all throw off the routine equally.
But I am not really spontaneous.
I am a planner.
And I am betting dollars to doughnuts you are too.
Because we have to be. Because the routine gives our kiddos comfort, security, stability, predictability; all things that they need to have manufactured by us in order to help process their world.
In turn, the routine then gives to us exactly what it gives to our kids.
So why are we all so resistant to being on a strict routine? It can be suffocating at first. Like being in jail or the military or some other god awful place where our freedoms have been taken.
Trust me, I still have those "hate living in Holland" moments, and often they revolve around our strictly followed routine.
Nice afternoon drive home from my mom's house about 30 minutes south of us. It is creeping towards bedtime routine time, 7pm, but the sun is out and it is warm--a rarity in this part of the country.
What do I want to do? Simply take the boys to ice cream. Just because. Just because it would be a nice "family" thing to do. Because I assume people in Italy do. Because I hear that Italy is full of spontaneity.
Yet, I can't.
If I take them to ice cream the whole evening is shot. Meltdowns, fits, crying, yelling, destroying, and then in turn it makes me and Jeff feel that out of sync too.
So it is a no. No to the ice cream in the evenings. Which is disappointing for sure: That was something my dad took me to do all the time; a tradition of sorts for me growing up. Knowing that I will not pass that to my kids in the same way is a bummer. But not the end of the world.
The neighbor kids ridding their bikes at 7pm on a sunny Saturday evening. Laughing and playing while Gabe sleeps and Nick and Matt peer out the window.
Breaks my heart.
But, like I said, the routine is PARAMOUNT.
Now that we have ruled out spontaneity in my life, and know how much I long for it some days, let's talk about what it has given me. Because my dear friend Routine has given me far more than she has taken.
Routine has given me the opportunity to enjoy things with my family that I would never have before.
It has given me family dinners, with everyone at the table, sitting or standing as they please. The opportunity to have our High Low time (highs and lows of the day shared by each). This time has built a foundation for our family far better than an evening of ice cream ever could. It has made us closer, and more in tune with each other's lives.
It has given me bath time with no fits, it has made book reading enjoyable, and has offered me the peace of putting all of my kids to bed at the same time.
It has walked me through the transition to school, the basic routines of getting ready. It has taught me how to instill the need for organization, offer basic executive functioning skills and a sense of accomplishment in my kids. All of them.
Routine has allowed me to stabilize my kids--and stable kids make for a stable home. No matter who told you the opposite, with our SPD kiddos (and more!) we find stability in their stability.
It has given me the gift of family vacation, by allowing the boys to be "on routine" away from our home. On vacations, as we stick (more loosely) to the routine, it gives them physical comfort outside of their house while opening up a world of possibilities to their mind.
It has allowed me to hire a babysitter, and know that she will not struggle with the boys' temper tantrums or have issues with bed time.
Why? Because the boys are left to "in charge" to teach the babysitter the routine. They love it.
Routine has given me peace. It has given my whole family peace.
A solace of sorts in an otherwise chaotic place. A familiar shoulder to lean on when things are out of whack.
Seeing routine as your friend, and NOT your enemy is hard for most families when this all begins.
It was hard for me.
But it developed naturally over time.
When I taught preschool, over a decade ago, routine was a natural part of the day. I used to say to my husband about parenting our future kids, "If you don't have a rule, you can't have an exception."
I had no idea how true that would be for our family.
My kids are able to value an exception to every rule.
If we have a dessert after dinner, that is a TRUE exception.
If we go to the park after school, that is a TRUE exception.
If we stay up late and watch a movie, that is a TRUE exception.
This formula has allowed us to plan our exceptions, yes, and that is anti-spontaneity, for sure.
But, I get the "spontaneity" that I want (which really, is flexibility, because let's be honest, none of us are going on a romantic spur of the moment trip to Europe), within the boundaries that my kids can handle.
I get less fits.
I get less tantrums.I get easier transitions
I get less stress.
More time to be happy.
Routine is my friend. And I would like to introduce her to you--I hope you two will become life long friends like we have. And if you have a problem with her, feel free to let me know, and I can help you two mediate. Because this is an unconditional love that you will foster, even with its ups and downs, like me, you are meant to be her BFF.