Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Praise of Routine

I'm a former kindergarten teacher, a bit of a Type A person, and someone who craves predictability and familiarity.  Unsurprisingly, I ended up channeling all of this into forming my days with my twin boys.  Routine helped me:  I could plan ahead for guests, outings, errands, and traveling (to a certain extent).  I could tell people when was a good time to call (admittedly this isn't a big window of time right now), and it helped me to feel less like the days were endless stretches of "who knows?!" and take them in small, manageable chunks.  And routine helped the babies:  They got hungry at the same times.  Their bodies got into the habit and rhythm of sleeping and waking at certain times.  (Again, all of this was "to a certain extent," because life happens.)  Children feel more secure when they know what to expect.  That's not to say we never do something special or out of the ordinary, but generally we do the same things at the same times.  And when I think I'm going to lose my mind, I just have to think "Only ____ minutes/hours until naptime/bedtime!"  

Image thanks to Keepcalm-o-matic

As the boys grew older and more mobile, I searched in all kinds of places looking for pointers on how to manage them, the apartment or house, and my time.  I found a lady who filmed a typical day in her household on YouTube.  At the time of filming she had a preschool daughter, a toddler daughter, and baby twin boys.  I figured she would have plenty of wisdom on logistically getting through the day!  I got a lot of tips and ideas from watching her videos.  You can find the video "Daily life part 1," here.  (There are 5 videos in her "daily life" series, which cover the course of 1 day.)  She also made a condensed version called "A day in my life in under 7 minutes;" view here.

Here are some bits and pieces of our routine that help me:

  • From the videos mentioned above, I got the idea to establish "bedroom playtime."  Once the boys could semi-sit up and crawl a bit, I started leaving them in their room alone for a few minutes after they had their morning milk and had been changed and dressed for the day.  The room was completely baby-proofed, I put a gate up in the open doorway, and at the time our master bedroom was literally a few feet away.  I would use the time to get ready in our bathroom (also with the door open) as quickly as possible.  That way I was ready to start the day by the time we all went downstairs for breakfast.  We worked up to it, and now I leave my almost 2-year-olds in their room every morning for almost 20 minutes while I get ready and they play contentedly in their room.  They've become used to it.  (I still put a gate up or close their door, knowing I'll hear if they scream at each other, and I try to rotate out the toys in their room every week to keep them interesting.
  • I try to empty the dishwasher every morning while the boys eat breakfast.  I even pour in the detergent for the next load.  Then it's ready and waiting for dirty dishes to be loaded all day and all I have to do in the evening is push start.  When the boys were still drinking formula, it was especially important to have all my bottle parts and mixing tools clean and steamed and ready to go for the day in the morning.  (We did use a microwave sterilizer when they were infants, but when they were older I felt the dishwasher was a more efficient way of doing it.)
    • When the boys were infants/young babies, I would put them in their bouncy seats for a little bit to digest the milk or formula while I did this task.  Then they would have time in an exersaucer or jumperoo while I mixed more formula, and finally we would all do tummy time.  
Bouncy seat time!
  • Right after the morning coffee dose (for the grownups), I wash and refill everything and set the coffee maker on delay-start for the next morning.  That's just one little less thing I'll have to do in the morning when I'm bleary-eyed.
  • Every morning I usually throw one load of laundry in the washing machine.  I find if I make this a habit, I can stay on top of it.  I'd rather do a load here and there, rather than make one day the laundry day and have to do a bunch of loads.  (I got that idea from FlyLady, an organization and housekeeping advice site, and champion of routine.)
  • I set times for meals, snacks, naps, and bedtime and we stick to them as closely as possible.
  • In between the items above I try to portion out the day in half hour chunks.  If we go out, have people over, or the boys are particularly interested in something, then we might spend more time doing something.  (I'll never forget the miraculous day they played with their train set for an hour and a half without a single interruption!)  But if we are staying home and the boys' attention span is short, then it just seems more manageable to break activities up into 30 minute slots.  Or less, sometimes...  But for example:  30 minutes playing in the living room, 30 minutes playing in the yard.  You get the idea.  
Please comment below and share what kind of routines help you!

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