Childrearing

How Important Is It To Have A Routine?

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While I was pregnant, I read the ultimate guides What To Expect When You’re Expecting and What To Expect: The First Year, like every other pregnant woman. I can still remember pouring over the sections about routines and schedules. Would I be an on-demand mother or would I set a timer in between bottles? Would I rock her to sleep or would I let her cry in her crib? Of course neither of those answers are black or white, one or the other. Most mothers find a balance between the two extremes that works for them.

I realized pretty quickly that schedules worked for my daughter and me. I never had to force my little girl into a routine. She took to them pretty easily. I felt lucky that my daughter made at least one decision pretty easy. I never wrote down our schedule, it just seemed to be the natural way our days worked out.

We have an active social life, so we had plenty of distractions. We got away from exact feeding times and precise naps. The older my daughter got, the less likely it was that she would want to snack at the same time everyday. Or we’d be in the middle of a great game of indoor soccer, which consists of my daughter kicking the ball at the door and me playing goalie, and I wouldn’t stop it just for something silly like nap time. She got older, and our days got more complex.

But even if our routine has varied, my daughter is still pretty attached to her usual outcomes. As a three year old, she despises the idea of sleeping in any bed but her own. Even if she attempts to sleep in our bed, she always moves out by 9:30. Recently, my husband tried to let me sleep in. Sweet, right? Except when our daughter wakes up, she needs her yogurt, berries and toast laid out on the kitchen table. Her juice and daily vitamin need to be on the right side of her plate. Her stuffed dog, Jenny, needs to be sitting in the chair next to my daughter’s. And the light over the dining room table can’t be on. The light from the hallway needs to be on, so that the room is lit but nothing is shining directly in her eyes.

Wow, now that I’ve written it all down, it seems pretty obsessive. I suppose that I should leave out the part where her entire outfit, down to the socks, shoes and hair-ties need to be laid out on the couch ready for her. Obviously, my husband did not know about this routine, because I’m always in charge of our mornings. And obviously, if you know my daughter, this wasn’t going to end well. Throwing off my daughter’s schedule severely disrupted her morning. She didn’t know what to do or how to react. She wasn’t happy, that’s for sure. Her dad wasn’t happy, because all she would tell him is, ‘This isn’t right!” My little girl, even if we’re passed the scheduled-feeding phase, really likes her routine.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if I need to break her from that. Before she gets into school, she’s going to need a little adaptability. Sure, classrooms are notorious for having a time for everything. Circle time, playtime, story time, lunch time. But what if we get a delay? Will that throw off my daughter’s entire day simply because things didn’t happen the way she expected them to. I’m not sure if I’m ready to move her drink to the left side of her plate yet, but maybe I’ll try keeping her clothes in her closet until she’s ready to put them on. Or maybe I’ll move the vitamin. I just feel like I need to do something to prepare her for school, when her routines will really start to change.