After a difficult patch a month or so ago, where I was feeling intensely sleep deprived and was physically a bit battered, I feel like we have found our pace again. I no longer feel like I’m struggling, I get a little bit more sleep, and our days (mostly) have a calm rhythm to them.
I think this is mainly down to Frida having gone through a developmental shift where she is now happy to sit and work with her toys for longer periods of time, making my life more restful as I can sit with a cup of tea – sometimes even hot! – and watch her for a while until she needs me. But I am also slowly trying to adjust our daily routine to be a little bit more predictable – very roughly and in an ideal world it goes something like: wake up, chat in bed, nappy change, breakfast, playing, nap, get dressed, spend time with toys and materials, quick trip to the local swings, lunchtime, nap, longer outing, maybe another nap, cooking, DADDY IS HOME!!!, supper, sleepsuit, quiet playing, bedtime. I hasten to add this is not prescriptive (for example this is not what happened today) and everything is utterly baby-led and on demand (especially breastfeeding), but I’m finding it useful to have something rough to aim for.
As I mentioned in my post on toys I have been reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, a book which I am finding very inspiring. In it he talks not just about simplifying a child’s environment by reducing clutter and excess toys, but also about providing children with a predictable rhythm, not just throughout the day but also across the years. He writes that rhythms establish a foundation of cooperation and connection; any repeated activity can be made more “rhythmic”. This rhythm helps children to picture how the day will unfold, and to feel that they have a place in the tasks and activities of daily life.
I find the idea of having a comforting rhythm as the background to family life very appealing. Some things I am keen to introduce for Frida include:
- Lighting a candle to mark the start of each meal at home. We currently do this as it’s dark in the mornings and evenings (and who doesn’t like soothing candlelight?) but I like the idea of continuing this, to mark the end of previous activity and the start of a mealtime. As we’re not religious we wouldn’t pray but I suppose this is a function which prayers serve for those families who do have a faith. Blowing out the candle means the start of clearing up the meal.
- Celebrating the yearly cycle of the seasons. Taking meals by candlelight to welcome the light during winter solstice (we did this yesterday and Frida loved it), a long lazy picnic to celebrate midsummer, playing in the leaves during Autumn, walks to see the blossoms and growing bulbs in Spring – the cycle of the seasons offers limitless potential for reflection, celebration, and emphasising the rhythm of the year.
- Trying to establish more of a “bedtime” rhythm. Confession time – at the moment bedtime usually happens when Frida is so tired that staying up is no longer an option. We both want to move towards having a “winding down” routine in place for her before she reaches the point of being over tired, and I am sure it is possible to do this in a gentle and baby-led manner – I think this will be our family resolution for the new year.
- Taking part in celebrating festivals and holidays with friends and family. Although neither of us are religious my husband is Jewish and when I was a child my parents were Christian. I hope Frida will grow up enjoying the various celebrations each tradition has to offer, and that we can put our mark on these as a family, for example, choosing a new bauble to add to the Christmas tree each year, or when Frida is older helping her to light to Chanukah candles.
In time I hope that we build more family traditions (perhaps weekend pancakes, or regular visits to family) which Frida will be able to look back on fondly. I really like the idea of our family’s sense of identity growing along with the activities we do together, of forging stories, and enabling anticipation and security.
Do you have any family traditions which you look back on fondly? Which things do you hope your children will recall?