I’ll admit… though I was psyched to start this book and devoured the first couple chapters with gusto, I’ve been waning in my enthusiasm. This is no reflection on the book itself – in fact, when I do pick it up to read a few more paragraphs I wish I had more time to devote to finishing it and can’t wait to implement the many wonderful suggestions. As I mentioned in chapter three’s discussion, sometimes I’m just stressed out trying to take care of everything.
This month I had my annual doctor’s apointment and was almost disappointed at my midwife’s nonchalance towards my perceived disorder (I should be happy, right?). I managed to start exercising as she suggested, but there’s no way I’m gonna get around to it every day.
Josiah had an infection that left me feeling like a bad mommy, as I do most days. I’m thrilled that it managed to clear itself up with some simple home remedies, but whenever my days consist mainly of diaper changes and trips to the potty and cleaning up pee and poop, my role as a mother can somehow seem pointless and almost degrading.
I like to help people, and have often felt that I have a servant’s attitude… but sometimes it feels like I have nothing left to give. When something is expected and demanded of me and my reserves are absolutely replete, I end up feeling resentul.
I have so many fail checks on my to-do list. Sometimes, after taking care of the meals and all the [never-ending] housework, I just don’t have much motivation for reading how I should really be doing things. It seems I’m always trying to improve; the more I try, the more frustrated I become at how much I screw up and how far I have yet to go.
That being said, I did get something out of the next chapter in Simplicity Parenting. Chapter four is all about rhythm – predicting patterns in the day and establishing routines that can bring security to children. “As little ones come to understand with regularity that ‘this is what we do,’ they feel solid earth under their feet, a platform for growth.”
I often struggle with the idea of rhythm – or, perhaps, the concept of routine. “What is so overwhelming about the notion of rhythm is that we assume we need to organize all of the moving parts of our lives into a full-scale symphony.” Even after reading this chapter, I still feel there’s more I should be doing! Especially since looking ahead to homeschooling my children, I want to work in something “educational.” I come up with these grand ideas, then get discouraged when they don’t “work.”
There are things to which we adhere because we’ve become accustomed to them, we know they work for us – rituals such as meals around the table; going to the grocery store or library on certain days; lunchtime followed by naps; a bedtime routine consisting of going to the potty, teeth-brushing, and a few stories before tuck-me-in time. We don’t have to try too hard to maintain these routines because they have been built in through habit, and yet, these are the kinds of predictable events that can lend security and simplicity to your child.
I enjoyed some of the suggestions for establishing rhythm, even simple ones like brushing your teeth and washing your hands, and can definitely vouch for the fact that some of these mundane tasks are more fun for little kids when you make up a tune to go with it. One of the things I noticed I already do, but would like to do more consistently, is to give Gwendolyn (and Josiah, as he gets older) a little preview of the day so she knows what to expect. Sometimes I do this at bedtime, telling her what we will do the next day (“Tomorrow is Thursday and Daddy will be bringing you to Meme’s”), other times it’s in the morning, letting her know my plans for the day (“It’s Monday, and where do we go on Mondays? To the grocery store!”). Throughout the day I try to give her a head’s up so she’ll know when it’s almost time to stop playing and get ready, be it for an errand or a chore or bedtime. I don’t know if this is always a good thing, however – if she doesn’t like something on the list, or we don’t get around to something I had intended, she might get upset. I also ask for her input, but again, I struggle with whether or not I should give a 3-year-old too many choices.
Getting dressed has become kind of dramatic lately, as Gwen often wants to wear the same thing every day, and might even get upset if what she wants is in the wash. I’ve been trying to simplify her morning routine by choosing an outfit the night before and putting it on a chair in her room (especially if we need to leave the house early); she usually sees me doing it, and I’ll often point out it’s there. It doesn’t always work, but more often than not she comes out of her room wearing what I’ve laid out
One of the biggest, most practical suggestions I feel can be applied to almost any family is establishing a dinnertime routine. A few nights ago, Phil was on one of his 24-hour shifts at work, so it was just me and the kiddos. My parents took us out to eat, and my dad ended up asking me what I appreciated growing up. There are things I appreciate more, now that I have my own children, but there have been things I’ve always appreciated, to one extent or another. We almost always sat down to eat as a family, discussing our day. Other things made it more special - when my mom let me use the pretty blue plates and candleholders to set the table, when a certain meal was made, when we played games or watched a movie afterwards. These things stay with you.
Being the homebodies that we are, we tend to eat most meals at home. But I think dinnertime is one of the most important family meals, as it concludes the day. Another thing to work on: letting the kiddos help me prepare the meal! I often balk at this, because I know they will make a mess and I could do it ten times faster, yadda yadda. But Gwen is always so enthusiastic and asks if she can help; when she does, she’s usually more excited to eat the meal. I’ll let her help me give the veggies a “bath,” and she often sets the table, helping to clear it as well.
I’ve been working on simplifying our eating habits, and love the idea of taking this further by creating a meal plan. Since I have been soaking some of my grains, planning ahead can really come in handy. I wrote out a simple list of dinner ideas for the whole week, based on things we eat most of the time anyway. If we have leftovers from the previous night, I may switch around lunch and dinner or just skip that meal, and so far it has made things easier.
We pray before our meals, and Gwen’s favorite prayer is a song passed down by her Great Gramp – if we don’t sing it, she will often wait to eat until she has sung it herself. Another suggestion (was it from the last chapter?) which I have been implementing is what Rachel calls the Sweet Spot in her dinnertime routine (which I love) - reflecting on your favorite part, or “greatest joy” of the day. We end up reviewing the day, picking our favorite parts, telling why we liked it. I’ve also put a candle on the table; lighting it may seem like such a simple thing, but it seems to be a magical component for the kids. And why should I be surprised? Growing up, I loved setting the table and opted to dim the lights and light as many candles as I could find. Candle light is magical!
And of course, what kid doesn’t like bedtime stories? Depending on the time, Gwen and Josiah each pick out a few stories. Josiah almost always picks the Karen Katz set from Auntie Nikki, lugging the box off the shelf and eliciting a grin from his mama. Gwen usually picks a few favorites from her current library stash, which we’ll read until they’re returned. I’m always surprised how easy it [almost always] is to put the kids to bed after we’ve gone through the bedtime prerequisites. When the last book is read, and I say “Come on Josiah, let’s put Gwendolyn to bed” they hop off the couch and off we go.
I wish everything were that easy!