When there is no Routine in the Routine

Every day feels the same.  I am awakened without fail, far too early, by Hannah each and every morning.  She comes in and announces the time.  Today it was Six Four One.  She climbs into my bed between Tim and I and complains that there are too many pillows and proceeds to toss them one by one onto the floor beside us.  Some reach the floor while others smack me in the face.  She asks to play with my phone which I blindly unplug and hand over to her.  She adjusts the volume to “three squares” (silent is out of the question) and chooses one of the many kids apps I’ve bought to entertain her, all of which are too loud for my ears at that hour.  I try to ignore the buzzing, whirring, mooing, clanking and singing for the many minutes she sits beside me, taking up My space in My bed in My quiet time.  Without fail, after her attention span is depleted, she begins begging to go downstairs.  Begging, pleading, whining.  She’s hungry.  She’s thirsty.  She’s uncomfortable.  She’s ready to start her day.  Luke starts piping up down the hall and I drag myself out of bed to his room as Hannah races to be the first to open his door.   Every day she wants to help change his diaper.  Every day he kicks her in the face as she does.

Same routine in the kitchen every day.  Make coffee, make toast, make oatmeal.  Pour milk for one, juice for the other.  Prepare lunches.  Watch two TV shows and tromp back up the stairs to get dressed.  First Hannah, then Luke, then mommy.  Brush teeth.  Brush hair.  Jackets on, lunchboxes in hand, off to school.  And at night… it’s all the same again only in reverse.  Routine. Ritual. Tradition.

And I’m ok with routine.  I often find great comfort in routine.  The expected.  As boring and painful as the rote may be.  But the problem, is that as  as my life feels, it is so far away from actually being routine.  There is so much unexpected within the standard.  So much that I can’t predict.  So much chaos within the everyday.  And that I am NOT good with.

The temperaments are unpredictable.  What will make one smile one day, will make them scream the next.  What one wants for lunch on Monday they will despise on Tuesday.  The outfit that makes Hannah smile for school makes her miserable for a playdate.  The time allowed for playtime before school one day is plenty and the next is far too little.  One day Luke plays with the playdough, the next day he eats it.  One mealtime Luke drinks from a cup, the next he dumps it.  One moment Hannah is verbal and communicative with her feelings, acting more like a nine year old than a five year old, and the next she is thrashing on the floor, throwing a full on tantrum, like a two year old.  And that’s what breaks me.  Because when I feel like I’ve finally figured SOMETHING out, I go and find out it really doesn’t work at all.

I put Luke in his crib at 12 today.  The time he ALWAYS goes down for his solid 2 hour nap.  It’s the time I EXPECT to get something done. The time I NEED to refuel for an afternoon of chasing him from one room to the next, catching him as he jumps from the couch and lugging him from the grocery store to Hannah’s school.  Needless to say, he’s not sleeping.  I’m watching him in the monitor. Not sleeping.  He’ll now be overtired and cranky.  I’ll have little patience.  There goes the expected.  So much for routine.

I pick Hannah up from school at the same time every day.  I have the same evening planned every day.  But I am full of worry every night as I drive to pick her up because of the unpredictability of what my nights will bring with her.  Did she nap at school? Did her best friend want to play with her?  Did they get to go to the gym?  The answers to these questions are different every day.  And therefore, so is the routine. I know I shouldn’t expect things to hum along in my house like they do in a well managed assembly line.  It’s not THAT kind of “sameness” that I seek.  But if any part of my day could be consistent from one day to the next, it would help.

Consistency.  It’s supposedly the key to parenting.  I just wish my kids had to read the same books I read, so they’d understand that consistency on their part would help me out too.



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26 responses to “When there is no Routine in the Routine

  1. I will say this: It gets easier. But by easier I mean a little more lonely, too. As I was reading your post I was wistfully remembering the days when the boys were constantly underfoot, when we played off each other’s moods more consistently. As they grow they’re getting more independant and routines are less mandatory. Believe it or not, you were making me miss my more “hands on” days.

    • This keeps happening to me. Every time I go and complain about the way thing are today… someone goes and tells me to enjoy it now, because I’ll miss it later. It’s so hard. I know I need to enjoy it, but on the days that I want to throw myself under a bus, it’s so difficult! Thanks so much for this perspective though Jane!

  2. With reference to Janes commet, I had a similar conversation oh the phone with my husband today (he works away during the week) I was saying how tired I was & how much hard work the children were being (3 & 1) but then it dawned on me that this is the happiest I have ever been & have no doubt I will look back on these times & say they were some of the best days of my life, never felt so tired in my life but still…

    • you are so right. These ARE the best days. the kids are so sweet (sometimes) and loving and ADORING. I need to enjoy them… appreciate them. I know it will get harder but the “sameness” of each day gets to me. And then the craziness thrown into the sameness, makes it that much more difficult! Thanks so much for your reminder to appreciate these days though.

  3. Your post was resonating with me so much my belly was turning a bit….then Jane posted her kind words which reminded me to try harder to enjoy all this. The mornings are the hardest for me, for sure. Especially the unpredictable mornings when the delightful, funny 3 year olds I put to bed wake up like T-Rex. Its so HARD sometimes.

    I love not being along. THANKS.

    • Thanks Camille for this comment. I appreciate that you feel the same way some days. Yes, the mornings are So Hard. Maybe because I’m not at the top of my game but also because it’s such a Rush! And everything is the same every day but there’s no predictability. Confusing, but true!

  4. Wow! Can I relate to this post. Seriously. There are days, more than I care to admit, when I desperately wish that I wasn’t reliving Ground Hog’s Day again and again and again. And don’t even get me started about when my kids don’t nap.

    I like to tell my kids that it is everyone’s best interest that we all get the rest we need. 🙂

    • Yes, it is definitely in everyone’s best interest… my daughter just doesn’t believe that yet! She is so opposed to rest it’s ridiculous.
      I sometimes dread going to bed because I know when I wake up, it’s all going to start again… how sad is that?

  5. It’s like we are leading parallel lives, right down to each night’s worry over how things will be that night. We do it pretty much the same every day, but the reactions are far from predictable. One might say it’s comical but only one who doesn’t have to live it.

    • Yeah, it’s not comical around here! I guess when you’re dealing with little people, there’s just no predictability and I need to get passed it. I just wish my kids would enjoy some consistency every once in a while!

  6. I think the hardest part is thinking that you do have some kind of routine, and then the rug gets pulled out from under you. I used to joke that it was always the same day with different clothes… and some days, it truly feels that way. The days blend into one another and before you know it, weeks have gone by…Yet we see our children blossom and somehow, we know that we will all come out of the “routine” haze better for it. Hang in there, friend!

    • Oh I like that, “same day different clothes”. Perfect. And what you say is exactly what is so scary. The reason why the years fly by so quickly is because the days are so similar. I am trying desperately to live in the moment, enjoy the little things, cherish the days but when they are all so ROUTINE, it’s hard. One day, things will feel “normal” and I think I’ll really like that.

  7. It is so hard when each decision, each move, depends on moods, temperaments. I think the under ten crowd can be worse than teenagers…

    • I’m sure the moms with teenagers would disagree! But these days, I have to agree. Especially when one of my kids isn’t speaking and I have NO CLUE what it is he’s wanting at any given moment. Speaking of consistency, every single word is exactly the same from him, “buh”. So, thank you Luke for keeping Something the same!

  8. I love this line: “There is so much unexpected within the standard.” Yes. Absolutely.

    You have a great way of distilling some of the most essential truths of being a parent. And this post resonated with me very deeply. There is nothing that I have found more challenging about being a parent than figuring out how to deal with the breaks in the routine I work so hard to create. As you said, why haven’t our kids gotten the memo about routine being good for them?

    • Thanks Kristen. I also find it SO challenging. I wish I could just expect something to be the same each day. Even if it’s just what the kids want to eat or wear or watch on TV. Something!

  9. I love this post. I want my kids to behave like machines. I want them to sleep for the same amount of time every day when I put them down for naps, and I want them to be awake when it’s time to go to a doctor appointment or a playdate. I find myself often jittery with anxiety or easy to anger if they don’t abide. That’s why when a dog barks in our neighborhood…oh, watch out. I’m on fire.

    • Jittery with anxiety… yes, me too. Way too often. And the dog thing? I’m so with you. And the problem… is that I OWN the dog! Thanks for coming by and leaving me a comment that makes me feel so NOT alone!

  10. I’m so glad to know I’m not alone in feeling so frustrated and at a loss when it comes to knowing what the day will bring. Even on days when both kids are out of the house, there seems to always be a fire that only I can put out.

    But not only am I not alone in my home, I’m not alone in this parenting biz. Look at all these other moms feeling the exact same way!

  11. You have it nailed! I feel this way a lot, although I’ve never really completely put the words to it as accurately as you have. Thanks for the perspective.

  12. Change is the only constant, right?

    But I find that the outline of our day carries a lot of weight. This sketch is like my coffee in the morning, I can’t live without it. I have to know that dinner will be at a certain time, that bath time will bring jammies, that bedtime will mean three books for one kid, a bottle for another, and the tucking in of all three into a sound, safe sleep.

    The routines. I hate them and love them at the same time. I think I learned to roll with the punches early on, but that doesn’t mean I like it. Me=ripping hair out daily.

  13. Pingback: Sometimes Cleanliness Is Not Required for Happiness « Making the Moments Count

  14. It seems that kids are consistently inconsistent. I was sure I had this whole parenting nailed down, until Manly decided he didn’t want to sleep anymore during the day. And now? I feel like I am re-learning everything.

    It is posts like these that keep me coming back. You, Becca, have a gift for writing exactly what is going through my head.

  15. Sigh. This post so resonates…I want to love the ritual but want it to come with predictability. Or control. Or something that feels like I have my space and my head and the kids live with me. But they seem to live like phantoms (loud, messy, unpredictable, vindictive, sweet, thoughtless) phantoms that consider the boundaries of space and time just suggestions. They barge in and out of my head, my body, my ideas about what should be happening, and they just muck everything up.
    Oh, ugh. It feels like a violation so much of the time. I thought I’d be parenting, not get trampled by a stampede.

  16. All those years just came rushing back to me. I had forgotten so much of it.

    I still pick up my 13-year-old with tepidation. Did you have a good day, were the kids nice to him, did he fall down and get hurt.

    I still go in their rooms every night and lay on their bed and talk a little bit.

    But things now are unpredictable. Get ready. perhaps the early years are preparing us for the later years. I never thought about this until I read your post.

    “I’m going to drive across the Richmond Bridge to Berkeley to see my girlfriend tomorrow!”

    “You’re gonna what?” I want the routine of yesteryear. But even in those routines there was still chaos. I remember it being so exhausting. Are you tired?

    Your children sound really adorable. ENjoy every minute.

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