Tuesday 5 April 2016

The Rhythms of Our Days

We settled into a good rhythm over the winter, easy and natural, a comforting flow to our rainy days. I have not always been particularly good at this. It was not until my first child left behind his go-with-the-flow infancy that I was forced to begin to shape our days into a steady routine. I sought a predictable beginning, middle, and end, with room to wander as life lead us.

And yet it remained a challenge for my distractable and disorganized self. I wanted to mark the rhythm of our days, weeks, seasons, and years. I wanted the comfort and security of routines for my children. I wanted to continue our journey towards intentional living, ensuring that the things we valued were not forgotten as our time idly slipped away from us. I just wasn't very good at it.

It's been six years since I first recognized the value of rhythm in our days. I have managed to find that rhythm in certain seasons, steady and reliable, while during other seasons it has slipped away from me. It has been a trial-and-error endeavor, up and down, off and on, but overall there has been a positive progression. Now, at last, our rhythms shape and guide our daily lives, rooted with anchor points, carried along by intentional habits, and ever being fine-tuned to fit our needs.

Right now that rhythm begins before dawn. I get up early with the husband to fit in my run or yoga. I settle into my morning quiet time while he heads off to work and the kids continue to sleep. My early mornings have become more life-giving than I ever would have imagined, and I most definitely notice its absence on days when it doesn't happen.

During this quiet morning time, I read Scripture, pray, journal, and read from my current non-fiction book. This is the sort of reading that I find more challenging during the day, when I won't have the devoted time needed to focus on the words, or at the end of the day, when I'm too tired to give it the thought required. After reading, I review our upcoming day, and then I do a bit of work or writing if I have extra time. And drink coffee. Of course.

The kids wake up one at a time. Ell is nearly always the first, with baby Min close behind. Jay and Kai sleepily wander out eventually, unless we have time-sensitive plans and I have to wake them up (to a chorus of grunts and grumbles and roars, the little bear cubs). After reading a couple of story books while they wake up properly, it's time for breakfast, followed by a bit of play time. Mid-morning we settle in to our sit-down time together, which may include any or all of devotional time, reading, writing, math, and science or geography. By then it's lunch time, during which we have our history read-aloud.

After lunch is our daily quiet time. Min naps while the other three occupy themselves with solitary activities (reading, puzzles, games, and so on) or head outside for some backyard playtime. I work until Min wakes up. There's often time for a game or two before moving on to dinner preparations. Post-dinner is the usual busy evening activities of clean-up time, baths, teeth brushing, bedtime story, and so on. Before I go to sleep myself, I set out the various things I need for morning - coffee supplies ready, stack of books waiting, clothes chosen. That morning time is precious to me and I wish to waste as little of it as possible.

I have been focusing this year on cultivating a deeper sense of home, and rhythm, I've discovered, is an integral part of that. Rhythm provides the hooks on which to hang our activities, our priorities, and our values. I can wake up in the morning knowing that all of the thought is taken out of our plans - the myriad of daily decisions, the preparations, the choosing of what and when and how, the fitting in of what matters to us as time carries us along. I can just get on with what needs to be done, more fully present in the moment and with less worries for the next few steps ahead.

But our rhythms are continually being adjusted, and this spring season has called for new life to be breathed into these old winter routines. We have been setting down the pencils and spending all the lovely mornings outside, at the playground, the beach, or walking through our favourite wooded areas. Our afternoons are still similar, allowing the baby to get in his nap (I will call him a baby forever and ever and don't you try to make me start calling him a toddler already, I don't care if he's walking everywhere and getting into everything and throwing epic toddler tantrums to go along with his Very Big toddler opinions) and providing me with a consistent time in which to do my work.

I find these times of rhythm transitions to be challenging. I feel off-kilter for a while, feeling my way semi-blindly through our days. I miss the simplicity of knowing generally how the day will unfold, and decision fatigue wears on me quickly. Eventually, though, we settle into the new season, rhythm lighting the path ahead, an ever-evolving framework for our family to grow up in.