In every season, there is this natural adjusting of schedules. And in the fall, even more than the start of the ‘real year,’ there a readjusting to school and responsibility. In our family in the summer, we still work full-time and the kids are still in full-time daycare. But somehow fall feels like we get back to business.
Finding new rhythms in the shorter daytime hours seems like a big jump sometimes. And I find myself over and over saying the things I know. These four things, if all in place, help tremendously in making those transitions. They reset the over-tiredness, and bring us back to the place where we are all most comfortable.
So, here’s what I know. I know four things work for us. I know if these four things are in place, we live healthy, peaceful, enriched lives.
I’m not here to say that I don’t pull the macaroni and cheese out of my magic box of tricks once in a while. But, I also know to use the blue box sparingly. If we are eating food that is good and wholesome for us, if we are sitting down around the table to enjoy each other and love-laden food, we are more grounded.
This time of year we are still enjoying end of summer’s bounty. Juicy tomatoes, rich pumpkins, new potatoes— food that should be savored with reverence. Especially if we take time to make it together. Teaching your kids how to eat whole, handmade food. Working side by side, leading by example. And we feel healthier and have more energy if we’ve fed ourselves with enriching food. Meeting around the table to discuss our days is just as enriching.
Every family has an internal rhythm. How you wake up in the morning, what chores you perform in the afternoon, setting the dinner table, how many books read before bedtime— the natural things you do that become benchmarks for your day. It is the why or how of the life you live.
At dinner, we check in with a simple question: What was the best part of your day?
There is usually more than one answer and the dialogue that flows is more important than answering that simple question. Usually this can take more time than whatever else we talk about and it gives us all an idea of likes and dislikes, thoughts and feelings, daily triumphs and tragedies.
Rhythm that Makes Way for a Schedule
Bedtime is important, and there are now studies to prove what I’ve suspected; when my kids are on a schedule, they are easier to be with. Less tantrums and craziness– more learning, thinking, growing. In the summer, it’s more difficult to convince little ones into bed with the sun still up. But in the fall, coaxing into bedtime is important. I find that our bedtime routine starts when we wake up in the morning. The more rhythmic and routine our day, the better bedtime is.
Like the changing of the light, we’ve had to seasonally adjust things for the new stages we continually find ourselves in. At four, Isabel is beginning to help out around the house more. And so she has a chart, not just for chores but for expectations. For awhile we were having rough mornings, with large amounts of crying. Which I cannot handle day after day.
Morning expectations are now clear, laid out on the chart for her, go potty, brush your teeth, no whining. At dinner we have some duties: set kids places at the table (Truman puts out cups) and clear dishes after dinner (Truman clears cups).
And bedtime is about the same as morning time. Go potty, brush your teeth, no crying. Now that she knows– on paper– what’s expected (no crying!) there is less negotiating. You have either completed your tasks and are allowed to color in your square or not.
Outside Family Playtime
Being cooped up all winter isn’t ideal, and after last year’s very cold winter — all that we wanted to do this summer was be outside. Making sure that we spend at least one hour outdoors after work/daycare means for a happier, more good-and-tired family.
We ride bikes around town, play at our local parks, go for nature walks in our town’s wooded area or play in our own backyard. We reconnect with each other and with nature. It eases family tension to play. And when were out-of-doors, we see the light change, the leaves turn, the seasons end and begin. That sets our rhythm too.
Though Mary McLeish Arteche works full time as an Art Director, she is also a full time Mom. She and her husband celebrate the complex simplicity of a one-dog, two-kid and two-chicken household. Her family is always on some sort of adventure: baking bread, tending the garden, singing and enjoying being family. Follow her journey at The Yellow Door Paperie.