I was recently listening to the Summer List Episode on the Sorta Awesome Podcast. They shared an idea I really loved – the idea of creating daily themes to help you plan out your summer. I think any time there is a chance to put rhythm into place it takes out so much of the brain work of planning a Summer That You Actually Enjoy. [Related: How to Plan Your Summer on Purpose].
As I reflected on this idea of daily themes and rhythms, I kinda realized that we already DO have rhythms in our family.
You do too.
I ran through a mental list of the routines we have as a family in the daily and weekly life. Then, as I sat overlooking the trees and overthought this, I realized what a gift that rhythm can be, to yourself and your family.
To me, when I say rhythms, what I refer to are the routines and rituals in our day or week and traditions that happen once in a while. They are the things we do together out of habit. Whether it is to accomplish a chore, to have fun or just to unwind.
Here are some examples of our rhythms that we find helpful, or enjoyable, or necessary:
We wake up early enough to get everyone out the door without a lot of effort for the older kids….the four-year-old still needs a lot of prompting to move from one place to another while remaining fully clothed. One thing happening in our mornings that I love is walking the kids to the bus. Knowing we will walk to the bus gets me up and ready and I love the time we get outside.
Tea time/ Afterschool snacks
When all the kids were home we would often have tea time in the afternoon. Now it has turned more into an afterschool snacks situation. We bring it out teat time a couple of times a month for novelty….. conveniently timed with the occurrence of any baked goods in the house
We all eat dinner together each night. I mean the kids still act like wild bear cubs in a meadow, but we get through it. Almost every night we ask the kids what was something awesome today and something difficult. Or we ask them questions from a cool Q+A book my SIL gave us.
I personally hate the nighttime routine because I just want to be alone in the bath watching netflix. But no. The kids want cuddles and to interrogate me on this week’s agenda and ask me how old God is. I know that if I don’t fight it then the time will go much smoother. I rely on this routine because the time I spend with my kids at night and the time we spend getting the kitchen cleaned and lunches made will pay off and happen quicker if I let the routine happen.
When I think about weekly routines, I know there is a flow to our week that we have adopted. It isn’t just about activities and chores though. I view it in these groups.
Monday is an easy dinner and scouts night.
Tuesday is Dad’s last day working or last day off so we take it easy and kinda do meal prep and groceries.
Wednesday is Wii day. We brought out the decade-old Wii and have declared all Wednesdays to be Wii WEDNESDAY. It usually ends with the boys in some kind of unbalanced battle and Lenayah crafting at the table.
Thursdays is nothing. I like having nothing planned. I often kick the kids into the backyard, turn on some music/podcast and make dinner. (Which lasts about seven minutes til someone makes their way back into the kitchen. Seven glorious minutes)
Friday is treat and movie. Every other Friday my husband is working, and I feel like he is so much fun so I enacted some guaranteed fun with the Friday Night Treat. I take the kids to the store right after school, tell them they have $6 each and let them buy whatever treat they want.
Saturdays are ‘Saturday morning chores’ and then we keep the tv off and plan something fun, get outside, see a friend, go to the park.
Sunday dinner is church and then all the downtime I can convince them to embrace. Sometimes a neighbour kid comes by to play but it is mostly us chilling at home. Then baths and some iPad time before dinner. I try and keep dinner almost always the same: leftovers or hash with berry crisp.
Then about every month-month and a half we have a family meeting. Which, I have been really blown away as to how much my kids have been involved and shaped by them. [Related: A Year of Family Meetings]
Why rhythms matter
Natural flow for a family
What is special about rhythms is that they flow. Sure, you might need to do some work to put them INTO place, especially if they are chores on Saturdays vs cookies on Mondays. But that is what each family can determine on their own, what works naturally with who we are and what we want to be doing,
Consistency provides comfort
The reason I think rhythms are a gift is that they offer consistency to a home. If you grew up with inconsistency of any kind you know that special longing you get when you witness other family’s traditions that are decades old. Or you know that unexpected comfort of being at a friend’s house and part of their Saturday routine. Children look to consistency to know what to expect, to find comfort, to find security.
A sense of belonging and culture
These things also make us part of a team. They give us a sense of belonging and they are a huge chunk of our family culture. [Related: How to Build the Culture of Your Family]
What matters most are the things we do most often
Routines, rituals, traditions, rhythms matter because the things you do most often matter the most. They show our kids what is important to us. If we have routines that give us an outcome of productivity, or peace, or adventure, or creativity – this is the clearest indication to our kids that these are the values and vision we are raising our family by.
“Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes.”
― Lisa M. Ross,
Knowing what is expected without lots of direction
One thing I love most about routines is that everyone knows what is expected of them. Once they are put into place, they can happen without a lot of prompting, willpower, and planning. Yes, that is all required at the beginning but then I rely on the routine to guide us. Now I can say ‘tea time’ and they know what we are going to go. Or ‘we are doing Saturday morning chores’ and they will move through the motions… sometimes with the passion of a sloth that ate seven bowls of pasta…… but they are moving, slowly, in the right direction.
Routines make sure things are taken care of
And if you are a mom, you might love rhythms and routines too. I could so easily be lazy and get distracted with a lot of non-essential things in my day. Routines help me make sure my life is LIVED, and people are clothed in clean clothes and fed more than toast. [Related: Plan your day, change your life]
How to create your own family rhythms
So maybe you find this interesting but you aren’t sure how to apply this to your family. Here is the thing: you already have rhythms you follow in your family. From how you all get out the door in the morning to how you handle your free time on weekends.
What I want to encourage you to do is make sure you like your rhythms, or should I say like the outcome. Because I sure do love the rhythm of drinking whiskey, eating ketchup chips and binging outlander – but the outcome isn’t worth making this a regular occurrence.
So, how to get some rhythms that work for the type of parenting you want to do? Start by thinking about what you want the outcome to be and work backwards from there.
I would encourage you to look at the Life on Purpose workbook (get your copy here) or the vision setting worksheet (the freebie, sign up below) for the family section and get some ideas from the vision you set here.
Once you have a vision for your family and you have identified your own personal values with how you want to approach life, then you can brainstorm all the possibilities of rhythms you want to keep or establish in your family.
The Family Rhythms Worksheet
Write it out using the free worksheet version (enter your email above to get it into your inbox)
THEN CHOOSE ONE at a time to work on.
And have lots of conversations with your kids about what you are doing and why and ask them for their input and make them a part of it.
Eventually, you will see them wanting to create rhythms from their own personal vision and values. Like one kid who wants you to say goodbye to him each morning in the same spot, way and exact time on the clock. Or one kid who decorates an old shoebox and requests everyone to put questions in it so we can start ‘question Wednesdays’