It’s bedtime and my boys are running around in superhero costumes. They have a set of 8 masks and capes, which means careening around the house is only interrupted for periodic costume changes. Hunter is 3-years-old and Archer is 16-months-old and they are both squealing with glee. It’s such a noisy, happy affair that my husband and I ignore the fact that this does not bode well for the boys actually getting to sleep. Maybe you thought this was part of our regular bedtime routine? We have the boys run laps until they collapse with exhaustion?
Nope. We follow a typical routine of baths after dinner, brushing teeth, getting in PJs, an extended period of reading, prayer, and sleep. Well… it was typical until COVID struck. Now, we let our little superheroes run around like maniacs. A lot of the structure and routines we once had have simply gone out the door.
I’ve been reflecting on the fact that it can take weeks and even months to perfect a routine. It’s a delicate dance and the entire family is part of the number. Then, COVID happened and what took weeks and months to create, somehow managed to fall apart in two days time.
It seems our new routine is hosting a free-for-all.
For 107 days (but who’s counting) - my husband and I we’re working full-time while parenting full-time. I tried my best to keep to a schedule by multitasking, like feeding my baby while in Zoom meetings for work. But, those same meetings were the reason the nap schedule changed from day to day. Evening events that I attended with my little one on my hip - pushing his bedtime later - were the reason Archer had his first night terrors. Talk about mom guilt. As for meals, I always wanted to be the parent who insisted on only healthy snacks. During COVID I slid even further down the slippery slope of using snacks to garner cooperation. It was a bartering situation - I provide a fruit snack and you give me 5 minutes of free time to send an email.
Now, I started with regaling you about the bedtime routine… how about the morning routine? I used to be pretty firm about my 3-year-old son being well groomed immediately upon waking and certainly whenever we left the house - a nice, coordinated outfit, hair combed - looking shiny and clean. It was just part of our daily routine. Then, you guessed it - COVID happened. One day we're out for a walk - my son is actually riding his power wheels - and I assess his outfit. It's midday and he's still wearing his pajama pants. I've managed to get a clean shirt on him, but it's totally mismatched. For accessories we have his water shoes typically reserved for the pool and an adult size hard hat... yes, like a legit construction workers hat. Hair definitely not combed underneath. He looked both ridiculous and adorable.
All the experts and parenting articles say to be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Let go of old ideals and rules. I think they’re right in that we absolutely need to show ourselves some grace. With that in mind, I could trick myself into believing there’s no harm in my son staying in his PJs all day. The challenge is, we always need to pair grace with truth. And, the truth is, of course, that it’s not just about me. All children thrive on repetition and routine. Regular schedules provide the day with a structure that orders a young child’s world. It actually brings comfort and consistency to a child’s life. Clear expectations help children feel more safe and secure.
I feel like I’ve conducted an experiment in real time and discovered all of this to be true. When my boys follow a routine, they just seem to be happier little people. So, I’m trying to regain some ground without letting perfection become the enemy of the good. Because the truth is, I’m tired. And I’m overwhelmed. But, I’m not alone. Psalm 37:24 says “...though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” The only way I’m ever able to support my children and make good choices for them is because His hand is upholding me.
With that encouragement in mind, I’m trying to be kind to myself by not being too rigid. But, I’m also trying to be kind to my kids by bringing back routines that help them thrive. And, that means, moving forward, my caped crusaders will have to hang-up their costumes before dinner. Turns out routines are the real superheroes.