I’ve always been impressed by families that can stick to a routine and stay organized and efficient throughout the week. I am the opposite of a Type A personality. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get my family scheduled the way that others do. When I first became a mother, I tried to put myself into an organized system and routine, until I finally realized that complete organization doesn’t fit my personality.
I recently read a 2002 study that followed families for fifty years and analyzed data related to rituals and routines within the family. The results showed that family routines and rituals may be important to the health and well-being of the child. Maybe it’s time to get those dusty day planners out again? Another study conducted in 2007 by the academic journal Infants & Young Children determined that routines and rituals provided a healthy emotional climate and guide for children in their developing years.
The more I read about healthy routines, the more I realized I wasn’t exactly the failure that I thought I was. Our family may not have a regimented schedule, but we do have many traditions and rituals that create a comforting rhythm in our home.
Some of my own favourite childhood memories to recall are simple and mundane rhythms that helped me feel grounded and safe in my home. I don’t remember the sticker charts, but I do remember the annual drives to see the crisp leaves fall, and the many days spent baking in the kitchen with my mom.
A family rhythm can be defined as a purposeful activity that repeats throughout our days, weeks, and years. It causes us to slow down, and savour our time together as a family, it’s an act of intention that doesn’t feel forced.
Some of the rituals and rhythms in our family include:
It’s become an expectation in our home that after a fun afternoon spent outside building snowmen and forts, a warm cup of steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows will be waiting at the kitchen table. My kids run in with their wet and soggy outdoor gear, excited to sit down at the table and warm up with their favourite hot drink.
We are a book-loving family that has more books than we can count. We make sure to spend a few quiet moments before bedtime reading a story and cuddling together under the warm covers before lights out.
Canadian statistics point to a decline in family meals shared together. It’s our goal as a family to sit down together at dinner and share a meal as a family. We talk and take our time eating without hurry or distraction, something we plan to continue as our children grow older and less connected to us.
Our children don’t have baths every night, but on the evenings that they do we make sure to give them time to splash and enjoy the warm water. We don’t rush or hurry them, and they love the time they get to play together in the bath. At the end we wrap them up in big fluffy towels and let them snuggle in our warm bed.
Most Saturdays we start our morning quietly reading and enjoying time together as a family. Our kids love to pull out crayons and colouring books and settle at the table for an hour of colouring and crafting together.
In our family visits to the library are sacred and frequent. We have the same cloth bag that we fill with books, and it’s always a treat to find new books to bring home during our library visit. The feel of the heavy book bag against my shoulder is familiar and comforting, and the kids instantly rush into the children’s section the moment we get to the library, eager to play and read.
On days when I allow myself time to make a homemade meal I always feel comforted and joyful while slicing vegetables and measuring spices. When we’re sick, I make my warm homemade chicken soup, when we’re feeling like celebrating I’ll make Mexican food, and when we need comfort and warmth I’ll make Indian food. The familiar and heady spices remind us of home and lift our spirits.
When our kids get hurt they know right away that there are some specific items that they will get. First, I usually grab one of our handmade ice packs from the freezer, and I attend to them carefully and gently. We treat the illness or injury and they receive the care and special items that are comforting and expected.
My husband has specific days of the week that he works in the evening, and I’ve learned that creating a predictable rhythm for the night allows for a smoother and more enjoyable experience. We typically choose a movie and make popcorn and enjoy a quiet movie night with nail painting and relaxing on the couch past bedtime.
One of our favourite family rhythms, which we typically reserve for warmer months, is an evening walk together around our neighbourhood. We all go outside for about fifteen minutes and just walk through our neighbouring streets. It’s a great way to get some energy out before bed and get us relaxed for a quiet evening.