Sunday, June 30, 2013

Routines and Rhythms

-----Original Message-----

From: Caitlin Kading
To: Jeri Bidinger
Subject: Mom questions

So I have some questions about mothering. Or I need some reassurance. :) This routine thing keeps coming back to me. You read so much about how babies need routine to feel safe and secure. You also read and hear about babies having a natural routine. I guess Lia has sort of got one: eat, play, eat, sleep. But the time varies drastically. More routine than that is frustrating for both of us. She doesn't keep the same timing and then I feel stuck at home. And I'm learning that she likes smaller more frequent meals than have been recommended.

So yeah, I know in my head we are doing okay--even if it isn't 'by the books.' But I could use some reassurance.

Meanwhile, just now she is trying to catch the cats. Cizme and Pollux are both weaving in and out around the dinner table--watching her but staying out of reach. Gypsy, poor dog, can’t come into the dining room while we are at the table, so she sits in the living room and whines to join the fun. It is pretty funny!

Love you!!

From: Jeri Bidinger
To: Caitlin Kading
Subject: Mom questions

Yep, I think you mostly need reassurance.

As I recall, you fell into a routine quite early--which was a huge blessing with me in law school. But it was your own routine. I didn't orchestrate it. It just happened and I felt so grateful. Dan--I'm not sure he ever had much of a routine, other than that imposed from outside: my schedule, your schedule, and the requirements of those. He wasn't much of a sleeper--ever. Never consistent about a morning nap and he dropped the afternoon nap quite early. He was always hungry.

Yes, rhythms and routines have a safety about them, but they are much more than a time schedule. A story and prayer at bedtime. Snuggling on the couch with Dad while he plays video games. Letting the dogs out whenever you return from an outing—and enjoying their wag-tail, licky greeting. Kissed and hugged often. Prayer before meals. Meals at the table. Manners. Safe in the car seat, strapped in with love. Favorite blankets and toys. The same bed most of the time.

Many routines come naturally: bedtime and rising because Josh goes to work. Dinner together around the table. Routines of household chores. Friends who show love as they come and go. Ice cream or a donut on grocery shopping days. Mom and Dad reading the Bible.

You and Dan were born at a time when schedules were OUT. We were urged to be flexible and free-flowing, to see babies and young children as portable and includable in the wide varieties of good things in life. But when I was a baby, schedule was everything. My mom confessed to feeling guilty if she picked me up from a nap before the clock said it was time. As I think about it, I wonder if things are swinging back again because many children today have hardly any of the routines I have mentioned.

Lia does. You value the love-routines of healthy family life together.

Lia, of course, must move towards fitting in with the rhythms of healthy life. Bedtimes, mealtimes, ready on time for church or school. And these things do contribute to her sense of safety and security. But that is a growing thing. Her main security will always come from routines of love: Mom and Dad with calm voices and cuddles, pets and familiar toys, her own bed most nights, familiar foods mixed with the joy of savoring a new food and mixing it with the good stuff that is known. Mom and Dad listening well, loving each other. Also from Mom and Dad saying "no" and being firm about it when necessary for safety, appropriate manners, or the overall health of community life--that is to say, routines of consistent boundaries.

Flexibility, spontaneity, adaptability--these also are important values. Listening to one's own body--as with the "maybe smaller, more frequent meals are better for this child with a sensitive stomach" thing. We are NOT all wired the same. There are ways we must conform despite our innate wiring, like letting others sleep at night even if we don't. There are many more ways we can roll with it, like letting the night person alone in the morning until they are ready to talk, or skipping dinner to go to Baskin Robbins once in six months.

Remember, honey, that these schedule things come in waves and fads. But calm love, fun and laughter together, routines that celebrate beauty and community, consistent discipline towards safety and healthy life together, healthy food and plenty of outdoors and exercise, good stories and colorful pictures--those aren't fads in childreading, but rhythms of security, wisdom and joy.

Let me know if this helps. Much love to all of you!