I was talking with a friend the other day who could understand my pain. The simple reality that kids in the home create a wake, and the mess they leave behind can be overwhelming. It’s easiest to just follow behind them picking up and restoring order otherwise the end result to the day will be a tidal wave of disaster. But sometimes it’s impossible to do this.
And I’m learning to be satisfied with the amount of restoration I can do.
Last week, I wrote out our “homeschool day in the life”, and for the most part I left out a lot of detail. So I thought this week I would dig into our routine a little more to show how and why we function.
My kids are 19 months, 5- , & 7-years-old, and it has taken nearly 5 of those years on my end to develop what I like to call my “autopilot.”
What is autopilot? Patterns that are healthy for my family and that minimize the amount of decisions required of me.
What are the patterns that I’ve turned into autopilot? Chores, hygiene, and activities that are anchored to a time of day.
Chores: Before our youngest was born, I made a chore chart for my older two kids. It was simple, and did not contain a lot of “household requirements.” It was: Get Dressed, Pick Up Stuffed Animals, Put Dirty Clothes in Hamper, Make Bed, Tidy Toy Room, Put Books Away, and Do One Cleaning Task (per mom’s instruction). This became our “curriculum” for at least a month. They had dry erase markers and could draw a “check mark” in the box next to the completed item. It was golden. They earned rewards during this season of autopilot training, and then when it was clear that they were no longer looking to the chart and the thrill of check-marking was over – we stopped referring to the chart and just required that they continue doing these things on their own. So now, when I say “Do your chores,” they have a mental check list of the things I’m asking them to get done. (If you’d like help in finding a chart that would work for your family, leave a comment.)
Hygiene: This one is more for me. As an adult, I’ve had more than one morning where I’ve stood in front of the bathroom mirror not knowing where to start or what to do next. Should I shower? Bathe? Wash my face or brush my hair? What goes first and how can I possibly get this all done before someone needs me? Sounds silly, but I needed an autopilot. I needed to walk into the bathroom and not have to make decisions. So I worked out a weekly routine. There are things that don’t need to be done every day, so they get sprinkled into throughout the week. One less thing to stare in the mirror to decide. There is an order that makes the most sense – like, don’t put on a sweater and then brush my hair. Just taking the time to think this through – similarly to how I thought through the kids’ routine – I started working on what would be on my daily check list and in what order. It cut over 30 minutes off my normal time to get ready, and now I know that I can be dressed and ready in 15 minutes if need be. But I don’t skip over this in the morning for the sake of “getting more done” because I’ve learned the power of pretty and the influence it has on my family.
Activities: These are the things we do every day that aren’t necessarily chores or hygiene, but they are now a “given” for the particular time of day. For instance, whenever it is a mealtime the kids need to use the restroom and wash their hands. Sounds simple? It saves me from the stress of having to convince them to go to the bathroom! I think it’s a kid thing – the whole not wanting to take the time to go potty – but I don’t want a little “kid thing” to cause an argument or frustration. So we took the time to couple this little thing to the mealtime routine. No fights, just clear expectations and follow through. Another one is bedtimes and naptime routines. Doing the same things at the same times every day helps me save sanity and it provides the kids with so much security that it’s worth all the effort.
So what’s the confession? Well. I’m not Type A.
There. Now you know. Some of you who know me from BSF might be surprised to find out that I’m not a natural list making, go getter. I definitely can push myself to be orderly and precise, but my natural bent is toward free-flow and inspiration driven.
It’s been my passion for living life to the fullest that has caused me to put up a fight to make the most of our days. Finding these routines that work for us have been so beneficial and have saved me so much stress that I am happy to follow the list. Even with the list, our days don’t all look the same – I don’t think my Type B personality could handle living with that much predictability. But the outcome has been worth all the work.
Do you have autopilots? What are some of the routines that you do every day?