You know when you need to organize a cluttered and dysfunctional drawer or closet, you must first tear it apart, dump its contents all over the floor, make an even bigger mess than you started with, then begin from scratch? That’s also my approach when we’re not finding our collective family groove. If our routine feels flawed and forced, I throw it to the curb, take a road trip without giving any priority to preconceived ideas about naps or meals. “Oooh” and “Ahhh” over the exciting things you find on your adventure, just as you would all those lost and forgotten mementos in the back of your closet. Make a big ol’ mess out of things. But don’t take it too seriously. Turn it in to a game. Laugh at the disaster you’ve created. You know it won’t last forever. Then come back to it the next day and put the pieces back together in a way that works even better than the old system.
Sometimes it takes something drastic for us to realize that things aren’t working. In my experience, whenever my husband travels for work, I discover a lot of surprising things about myself and my kids, and all of the dynamics of how we work together as a team and a unit. Like most families, we’re busy. Bedtime is often an afterthought, sneaking up on us after we’ve had a full day of work and play, then rushed to beat the clock turning to seven. We end up skipping songs, reading only one book instead of three, getting snappy and impatient with our kids, and generally ending our day on an altogether icky note. Seeing it all in print makes it pretty clear why that isn’t ideal, but as most bad habits do, that routine developed gradually. Time to dump our bedtime routine on the floor, toss what doesn’t work, and keep what does.
The most recent and surprising discovery about myself is that I am a reeeeaaaal asshole if the floor is too messy. I’m all for kids having fun and childhood being messy and yada yada yada, but if the baby suddenly spits up on me, I don’t want to require the agility of a housefly to get across the room to a burp cloth without stepping on every Lego we own. That sucks. And it makes me super grumpy and likely to snap at my kids… who totally don’t deserve to be snapped at!
Most importantly, I tell my kids I love them (dozens of times a day, but especially at bedtime), apologize and own up to it when I know I could be doing better as a mother/friend/human, and forgive myself for being flawed and learning as I go. We’ll get through this. We always do.
Thanks to this book, we’ve been talking a lot about treating people the way we’d like to be treated. We’ve concluded that none of us think it feels good to have people be impatient with us. And, bonus! It’s stunningly beautiful. And another bonus! It briefly touches on different religions, which I love because I really want my kids to be exposed to a variety of beliefs so that they can make empowered decisions based on what feels truest and best to them as they get older.