The Blessing of Boring Routine
By Kendra Steinmann
Two summers ago, the three biggest children went to a local day camp for two weeks. Since they needed to be dressed, fed, and ready to go by the time my husband left for work at 7:30—and they would be getting home at supper time, utterly exhausted from their active day—we decided to change our morning routine. We started having everyone do one or two small jobs as soon as they got up, then dressing and having breakfast. The change worked so well that it has become our regular routine!
Five mornings a week, the children get up and do the same couple of things before dressing and assembling for Morning Prayer. One unloads the dishwasher and sets out breakfast, one cleans up the living room and puts out the hymnals and prayer books, one collects and starts a load of laundry, and the littlest two dress with some assistance. Occasionally, someone complains, “It’s boring to do the same job every day,” and I think about changing things up, but I quickly decide that the “boring old routine” is best.
“Boring routine” means no one has to think about what to do while they are still only half awake. They can walk downstairs and do their daily assignment, while their brains gradually adjust to the fact that they are walking around instead of sleeping. Obviously this is useful for the slow-in-the-morning kids, but it is also useful for the wakes-up-with-noise-and-energy kids, as it gives them an outlet for their energy that they can count on and that isn’t annoying the not-so-awake siblings!
“Boring routine” means I don’t have to think about what anyone should be doing. I can concentrate on snuggling the littlest two and dressing them. If the other children lose track of what they are supposed to be doing, I can redirect them with, “What is your morning job?” without having to remember what I have told them to do.
“Boring routine” means that we can count on certain household things having been accomplished before we start school. Having the kitchen be basically clean and a load of laundry running and ready to be swapped into the dryer at our first break means that when household chore time comes in the afternoon, we have a nearly loaded dishwasher to run and dry laundry to fold. Ten minutes’ worth of work on someone’s part at 6:30 am, keeps the whole household running smoothly.
“Boring routine” means that I can focus on teaching the children to do their jobs well, whether they are feeling like it or not. Since I know that they have done their morning job at least 100 times in the past year and they know the process, I know that they can be responsible to do the job well and can enforce that standard. Learning to do something well even if it is the 1000th time is a life skill that will serve them well in adulthood.
“Boring routine” means that if someone is sick or absent, it is fairly easy to redistribute things to keep the household humming along. If I am sick or slower in the morning due to having been up with a sick child, everyone still knows what to do and the basics of clean dishes and clean laundry—note: I did not say “folded laundry”!—still get done. When our oldest son was away at camp for a week this summer, we knew which jobs we needed to all pitch in on, and everyone else was able to step up and do some piece of the work.
“Boring routine” means that on days when we need to leave the house (we attend a co-op during the school year and need to leave the house at 7:30 a.m. once a week), we can shift the schedule up by 15 minutes and everyone still knows what to do. Even the addition of packing lunches and snacks doesn’t strain things too much, since I can do those things while the regular morning work goes on around me.
As someone who has been known to rearrange the entire house because I was tired of looking at the furniture in those locations, I never expected to find routines as helpful as they have turned out to be! As you settle into your school year and find things not going as smoothly as you had hoped and planned, it is well worth asking yourself, “Where can I institute a ‘boring routine’?” and “Is there some way I can streamline a part of our day, to help everyone have an easier time?”
The best result of a “boring routine” is when the children mature enough to start using it as a tool for scheduling their own day! This year our eldest has realized that because he knows what everyone else does routinely in the morning, he can get up fifteen minutes before they do, accomplish his morning tasks, and escape back upstairs to dress before the noisy, energetic people are out of bed. His “boring routine” provides him with the knowledge of how long each task takes, and he can take control of his own schedule and begin to use his own time wisely without my input! This is a major step toward adulthood, and it is routine that has made it possible.