Creating Rhythm ~ Step One
Over and over again I hear people say that they want rhythm in their lives and the lives of their children, but they just don't know how to find it or maintain it. Rhythm can be hard; some of it is already there, and some of it you have to create. The first step, however, is observation.
Every family has some rhythm in place. Some family members might have to leave for work at a certain time each day, which impacts sleeping, waking, and eating times. There may be night owls or morning larks, or perhaps babies and toddlers who don't yet sleep through the night unassisted.
For me, the first step to finding our rhythm is to take the time to observe and record what is going on in our lives? How am I sleeping? What time are the boys waking in the morning? When do they exhibit signs of hunger, boredom, or tiredness? All of these things change over time, which is why rhythm is dynamic.
In our home, Papa strives to leave for work around 8:00 a.m. T-Guy is usually awake before Papa leaves and they eat breakfast together. If J-Baby is awake he eats with them, if not he pours himself a bowl of organic maple buckwheat flakes with milk when he is ready to eat. Lately I have been sleeping until 8:30 or so; I have accepted my natural body rhythms and have chosen to co-exist with insomnia rather than medicate it. This wasn't something I could choose when my boys were younger. I do try to wake earlier, and my waking time varies throughout the month depending on when I was able to sleep. In general, however, I don't make early morning plans.
There is a lot of harmony in our home in the mornings. The energy is creative and peaceful. The boys enjoy reading and also connecting with each other and playing after the separation of sleep. I start my kitchen tasks, tidy the house, and spend too much time on the computer (just being honest, as it is something I will be working on). Some mornings I grab my handwork basket and sit on the front porch. When summer arrives we'll walk in the mornings.
We eat lunch around noon because that is when Papa comes home for his midday meal. After lunch we have a quiet period of time, and then we move into academics and projects. My observations have shown that the boys tend to get unsettled in the afternoons, with more squabbles and tears. They need more structure and I need to be present for them.
The boys are always hungry for a mid-afternoon snack, and after our focused learning and projects they want to play outside. Occasionally they will join a neighbor friend for front yard play.
Papa arrives home between 5:30 and 6:00 most evenings. Some nights we need a simple, early meal and other nights we have something to do before dinner. Lately Papa and the boys have been going for a bike ride two evenings per week, before dinner. They will continue with this until it gets too warm, and then the rides will shift to early mornings and our morning rhythm will change.
Each night is a little different, but we do try to walk each evening after dinner. It is restorative for all of us; a chance to connect, to be outside, and to exercise the dogs. This time of year we may head out early enough to enjoy the sunset, or perhaps the encroaching twilight and the cool breezes that dominate our spring evenings. Sometimes we walk in darkness and observe the constellations and moon.
When the boys were little they always had a bedtime snack. When T-Guy started his new medication last fall we had to eliminate the snack, and it worked well. They either eat more at dinner or have a little sweet or piece of fruit directly after the dinner meal.
Bedtime is fairly simple now that the boys are older. The put on their pajamas and brush their teeth, then Papa reads to them. If all of the evenings activities are over by 8:30 they go to bed and read for 30 minutes before lights out. If not, we do our best to get them to bed by 9:00 p.m. They no longer need a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, but that doesn't mean that they don't need a set time for going to sleep.
Once they are in bed I usually take a bath, and then Papa and I have an hour or two together before Papa goes to sleep and I settle in with a book or magazine.