Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flexible Structure

I love structure.  I am a firm believer that kids (and adults) need it.  I know my boys, and let me tell you, I know they do better when they know what is expected of themselves and of each day.  We have a daily schedule hanging on our fridge that is our map for success.  It is split up in 30 min. sections, outlining what needs to get done and what we want to make sure we squeeze into each day at home together.  I found awhile ago that if they are left in “free play” for too long they start bugging each other, getting into mischief and feeling kinda bored.  I also realized that I simply can not spend my whole day entertaining them.  I have things I am responsible for and although I love playing with my kids, I can’t do just that all day.  Alternating back and forth between chores, and play has worked wonders in our home!  They don’t feel neglected.  I don’t become Mrs. Lazy Housekeeper.  They get the attention they need to get their own imaginations working.  I get the time I need to get things done.  They get time with their mom reading books, playing games, folding towels together and hanging out!  I get to have happy, content boys (for the most part).  Balance.  Ahh!  Soak that up.  Say it again!  Balance!  Added bonus: My husband gets to come home to smiles-  not the overwhelmed wife and whiny kids. 

A portion of our daily schedule
Now although our days run smoothly with this in place, not all days are sunshine and rainbows.  Some days I need to be thinking on my toes and know how to change it up or throw them a curve ball to get things back on track.  Sometimes that means a surprise trip to Gramma’s (We are blessed to live in a 15 minute proximity to their grandparents making this an option for us)  Sometimes it means a trip to the library.  Sometimes if we are into an art project or they are so snugly sitting by me reading books it means lingering and not rushing on to the next thing.  I have to be in tune with my kids and with their responses to what we are doing. This morning it meant a 2 year old out digging in the sandbox wearing only underwear, a 5 year old coloring at the table and a 1 year old playing with balls in a rare moment by himself.  They were peaceful, happy and content.  I ditched the schedule and let them be.  We hadn’t eaten breakfast, brushed our teeth or gotten dressed (hence the underwear/sandbox situation).  But I took the privilege to let them finish, to allow them to continue what was holding their tiny little attention spans.  Eventually sand got into eyes, the picture was finished and I had a hungry 1 year old at my feet… so back on track we got!  We kept moving forward.  I could have called in the 2 year old and given the "we don't play outside in our underwear" speech.  I could have packed away the crayons until coloring time or scooped up the balls in our daily pick up the family room routine, but I didn't.  I was in tune with them and that moment. 
The uninterrupted art
I don’t know if this trick would work in every home, or if everyone works well with structure.  I do know it works for us.  I have gone through periods of time when things at home are overturned.  I am behind on every single type of chore, the kids are testing all boundaries and limits and I spend my days playing referee instead of mom.  Its up to us how our days will run- how to make the most of my time with my boys.  I want us to experience success.  I want us to enjoy our days, live in a home that feels like a home.  Make time for the things that are priorities and know when to switch things up, to learn something new.  Parenting is an ever changing thing.  The challenge of today will soon be a thing of the past and a new one will be waiting on the doorstep.  Don’t let the tough parts overshadow the blessings you have been gifted! Don't let the challenging days become the norm. Find a way that works for your family, for your own unique situation to help you experience each day to its full potential! 

I would love to hear your tricks for seeking out balance and success.  What has worked?  What was a total flop?  Looking back what would you do differently?  What are you so thankful that you took the time to focus on?  Learning from each others experiences is a great way to support and encourage one another!  Happy Flexible Structure to each of you! 

1 comment:

  1. Flexible structure ... That is the perfect way to put it. I might steal that for a post. I feel the same way this year. With older kids, I do expect them to entertain themselves while I'm working. Right now, Little Boy is reading during "free time" - my time to work. I have a loose summer schedule posted on the fridge so they know when we'll eat lunch and when we'll make afternoon plans. But like you, I'll know when it's time to head out for a change of plans.
    Something very valuable I learned from that book (Liberated Parents, Liberated Children) is to know how you feel. Sometimes, parents are afraid to be flexible. When it comes to discipline, for instance, we're told to "stick to our guns." That's mostly good, but sometimes, I feel I perhaps "overdid it" - and now I feel confident I can base what happens next on that feeling.

    I want to see your whole schedule!