“Rhythm is the magic word for parents and educators of young children. Young children thrive on a simple, flexible rhythm that carries them through their day, through each week and through the slowly unfolding years of their lives. Our children, who live closer to basics than we do, are profoundly affected by the life rhythms we determine for them. Many problems we experience with our children can be addressed by setting a simple daily rhythm that allows their needs to be met in a timely way.”
Sharifa Oppenheimer author of Heaven on Earth
Recently I have been realizing how chaotic my life has become. “Are you living in C.H.A.O.S.?” writes Daryl Hoole in The Ultimate Career. This stands for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome, and yes, I am! My struggle to become organized has been a long and not very organized journey. However, I am not giving up the struggle, and I have been reading two books that have really helped me on my way. Both are books written by Waldorf teachers; You are your Child’s first Teacher by Rahima Baldwin Dancy and Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer.
In my study for my Bachelors in Early Childhood Education, we learned that young children need structure. Things that are predictable and familiar are comforting to a young child. Imagine that your entire day was planned by someone else. You would have no idea what was coming, and that would be stressful. Fear of the unknown is a very common fear. Knowing this, with my first and second born I have tried to do things somewhat the same, and have meals around the same time. Not much else was organized, though.
Now, a year after my third child, we need some sort of organization to our lives! I have resisted writing down (and sticking to) a schedule because I am against strict schedules for babies that dictate feeding, sleeping, etc. That is why I love this idea of rhythm. It is a more fluid way of planning the day. Making sure some elements are the same and in the same order, but not necessarily at a strict time. Of course, general times are good, but keeping a rhythm feels more freeing than a schedule. Dancy explains it this way. “Creating rhythm in one’s life doesn’t mean to be rigid and dogmatic. There is still plenty of room for special activities and surprises (and sometimes the piper has to pay the next day when the child has missed a needed nap or had a late, exciting evening- but it’s worth it!)”
Also in support of rhythm, Dancy says “ Rhythm is a blessing for parents, because it enables the daily activity of life to flow more smoothly, require less energy, and become a platform that supports the family, its activities, and interactions”. Sounds good, huh? After reading all the suggestions in the book, I was fired up to get us super organized and on a schedule the next day. It’s not quite that easy, however, and I invite you to do as Oppenheimer suggests: “be gentle with yourself and set an easy pace as you move your life toward the rhythm you’d like. Abrupt changes are often too dramatic, too difficult, and therefore not successful. You can try just one thing, and when you and your child have integrated it well, then move on to the next. Most of all, enjoy!”
So, even though I have planned out a rhythm and several different things I’d like to start, the thing I’ve chosen to focus on is bedtime, and a weekly schedule. We have been doing these for about a month now and I have loved incorporating them. For our bedtime routine really starts with dinner, because if dinner is not on the table around 6pm, then the rest is kind of thrown off.
6:30 is bath time
6:50 pajamas- lay out clothes for tomorrow
7:00 bedtime snack- always ½ bagel with butter and honey and warm milk with cinnamon and honey
7:15 brush teeth, get in bed to read a picture book, just one
7:25 read scriptures, say prayer, candle time (a ritual where we light a candle and say a verse from a song)
7:30 lights out- stay in the room and tell them one story as they fall asleep
When we first started it was tough to fit bath time in, and we still miss it occasionally. Also my son would not eat the bedtime snack of toast with butter and honey, but he loves a bagel with butter and honey. It’s good to play around with things for a bit and find out what works best for your family.
Now for the weekly Rhythms. Oppenheimer gave the guidance that “ when choosing weekly activities, remember the golden rule: Simple, Simple, Simple! A walk to the park one day, a story hour at the library another and a weekly play date with a friend is a busy week for a child up to the age of four”.
Our schedule looks like this
Monday– Park day in the morning, Family Home Evening after dinner. We have dinner half an hour earlier to allow for this.
Tuesday– Make appointments (doctor, dentist, car, whatever) for this day in the morning. If no appointments yea! Free play!
Wednesday– Library Day
Shopping in the afternoon
Thursday– Park Day
Parent/child date after dinner
Friday– play dates
Saturday– cleaning in the morning
Family activity in the afternoon
Sunday– Nature walk in the morning, Sunday stations
Church in the afternoon
So, whew! That is what we have been working on lately. I love how it has changed our bedtime from hurried and hectic to peaceful (mostly) and enjoyable. But wait! How does this help my C.H.A.O.S.? This and more next week in The World of Rhythm Part II.
In the meantime, what sorts of rhythms do you have in your home? What would you like to incorporate?