As I wrote in my last post, one of my goals for this year is to find life-giving routines and rhythms for our home. These first five months with three kids have been wonderful but also totally all-consuming. I’m at peace with it in a way I wasn’t before.
With one and then two kids, it felt like maybe I could get caught up. Now, the times when the baby is content or sleeping, I can either choose to clean things up, make a meal, or spend time with the boys. I am learning that I’ll never feel ahead during this season, that true alone-time is rare, and that the whole house will never be clean (or even close!) at one time. Sickness or a clingy day throw all my best plans off the rails.
I wanted to share our process of trying to create these rhythms because that’s something I have wanted to find. But in no way am I an expert. And I’ll be honest about how long something has been working and if it stops working.
I have a theory that routines get easier as kids get older because the kids’ lives are a bit more predictable (sleeping times and eating times in particular) and also the kids themselves can help carry the routine. My other theory is that you don’t need routines until you feel the need for them (in other words, there is no reason to change what is already working fine!). Our flexible years were really special to me in their own way.
That being said: this is a peek at our messy progress at finding a few routines to anchor our days.
In January, I started taking the first small step toward making some routines. One thing I’ve noticed about my boys is that they will just walk around the house carrying something and simply drop it when they wish. On the positive side, I guess it’s truly a sign of living in the present. But it also means that the house gets chaotic way too fast, and it sometimes feels like the three-year-old especially is following behind me and undoing any work I do.
I wanted to find a way to involve the boys in cleaning. I also needed a way to be consistent with morning tooth-brushing for the boys. So on January 1, my husband was home, and I began a project I had meant to do for a while: tracing his hand. It felt cliche to start on January 1, but I plowed ahead anyway.
My older two sons have five chores every morning. Each one is written on one of their dad’s fingers (I don’t know where I saw this idea, but it’s not mine). When they are done, they give “Daddy” a high five (if I’m lucky, I get one too!) and then get a checkmark for the day. On Saturday, they get paid (I loosely use a system from Ralphie at @simplyonpurpose).
The day we started it, there was major resistance from the five-year-old. It was so bad that I considered giving up. But three days in, he was heading off cheerfully to do his chores (after some talks about complaining). I mostly help the three-year-old because he gets off track easily and still needs help brushing his teeth and making his bed.
I got the idea of chores from Lyndsey at Treehouse Schoolhouse. She varies the chores based on what needs done each day, and that clicked with me. It had been hard in the past to find chores that needed to be done ahead of time (inevitably the laundry would be caught up on Tuesday and my son would be frustrated that I had to come up with a new chore). Lyndsey also wrote about how she did most of the work at first, and that was so encouraging. So for now, here are their morning tasks:
Liam (5.5 years old) feeds the cats. Walter (3 years old) brings any cups from their bedroom.
They brush their teeth.
They make their beds.
They pick up toys (Walter does the bedroom, and Liam does the living area most of the time, but this can vary. Some days when it’s really bad, we have a massive room-cleaning session together). This also helps them see that if they clean up toys the night before, this chore is way easier!
The “Ask Mommy” job. This is so I can tailor one task to what needs done in the morning. For Walter, it has been plant-watering, helping sort laundry, throwing pillows on the couch, or helping me pick up books. For Liam, it has been sweeping, folding dishcloths and washcloths, and sometimes carrying things where they go.
I can’t believe this has worked so well for a full month. We do the full routine every day, and on Saturdays we do pay-day right afterward. On Sundays, they just have to brush their teeth. What I love is that it engages them so that they aren’t being destructive while I work. Instead they are working alongside me.
It also gives me a little built-in consistency each morning. It’s added accountability for me to get a few things done. I try to help them finish before the baby’s nap. Sometimes (like yesterday) this didn’t work, and I was helping Walt finish after Theo’s nap. They seem to be more fulfilled playing once they have worked, and as a bonus, their bedroom is all ready for the day’s quiet time.
For February, my goal is to start doing a morning basket after breakfast. We usually do Bible reading, our prayer calendar, and sometimes our hymn of the month during breakfast, but it’s not always consistent. I’ll post at the end of February about how this next baby step goes.