Monday, December 6, 2010

The Glory of Routines

7:14 a.m. - Tyler wakes up; begins reading The Monkey Puzzle or The Birthday Book in his crib; Talks to the truck posters on his wall

7:18 a.m. - Jennifer and I roll towards one another, asking with our eyes, Morning already...really?

7:19 a.m. - Jennifer and I pretend to be asleep after our silent exchange

7: 24 a.m. - Tyler: Uptrucks! Uptrucks on wall! Red uptruck! Yellow uptruck! Bob Builder uptruck! Uptrucks!

7:27 a.m. - Jennifer and / or I sit up in bed. Deep breath. Lay back down.

7:29 a.m. - Tyler: Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday all the uptrucks...Happy Birthday to you!

7:32 a.m. - Jennifer and I arise, knock on Tyler's door.

And so the day continues.


Even if we don't create routines, we have routines. Routines are like the ozone layer--at times, they may be thinning in our lives, but they're always, always there. Even if they're bad ones, we've got them.

Jennifer and I are realizing more and more how essential creating good routines really is. For Tyler, we've got it pretty well set. Bedtime, naptime, meal time, play time, truck time, snack time, dance time, playgroup time, outdoor time--you name it, chances are we've got it built in to some sort of routine.

And if we miss a routine-oriented item (i.e., hey, we're having a blast...let's not worry about the nap today! Let's keep frolicking in the foot and a half of snow!) we know that decision will return to haunt us later on in the form of some child who has switched roles with our son and instead wants to purposely try to disobey every single direction we give (even if that direction is: Eat ice cream!).

But it's only dawning on us now that Jen and I aren't that much different from our two-year old.

Okay, true: we are pretty different from our two-year old.

But, in one way, we're not.

Even though both of us tend to resist any routines (spontaneity is where's it's at, G-Funk!), we're starting to realize that disciplining ourselves to keep somethings as routines can help us as much as routines seem to help Tyler.

Case in Point: bedtime and waking up.

I used to wake up at 6a.m., get dressed, put my shirt and tie on (okay, most days I would wear a tie, but hey, teaching effectively is possible in blue jeans and a comfy shirt, too, right?), eat breakfast, get in the car, drive to work, and work.

But now I have a little more flexibility. Well, I could sleep in a little later...

But what I realize is that I miss waking up early! I miss the feeling of getting out of bed (even though I feel tired) and grabbing that massive mug of coffee, taking it to the bathroom, and having some seriously good reading time while I drink my a.m. caffeine loading with cream.

The routine--though it feels hard--helps create life.

It seems most things are this way. Writing doesn't always feel easy. We can't always sit down at our computers and have angels appear on our shoulders, feeding us lines that would make the Muses blush for shame.

But the routine of plopping our bums in the chair, staring at our computer screens, and allowing the mediocre lines to usher forth--the act itself readies the way for some more pricey gems to flow. The discipline itself can create a path for the inspiration to show up.

In resisting routines because they feel hard, or because they sap the energy from life, may, ironically, create the very situations where life feels hard and energy is sapped.

By making sure I get Tyler out the door to our playgroup, where he can bump into other toddlers, practice sharing, and exchange a hug or a high-five every now and again, I am helping him to learn something good about living. He's learning that even though watching Barney at the Zoo for the fifty-first time may seem like more fun, in actuality, getting outside, and doing what's planned is pretty stinking cool, too.

Routines--in their own humble ways--can be glorious, too. Not in the everydayness of them--no, probably not then.

But I would venture that after weeks and months and years of practicing them, we might ourselves looking at our lives and saying, Hey, word up, Dawg! Check it out! I've written 200 pages of this novel that I had been trying to get off the ground for years!

And even if the routines don't produce the results we'd hoped for--especially if they don't produce results--that is no reason to doubt the glory of said routines. Instead, we need to look for the ways they've grown our muscles, our hearts, and our wills to live in ways that promise to make this life worthwhile.