Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Order and Wonder

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
—G.K. Chesterton,
The above quote is from this article from Art House America, and the following is a reader's response, if you will.

This time last summer, when we were eagerly waiting the birth of our third son, I foolishly thought to myself, "Now's not the time to set schedules, to be confined to a routine. I need to be flexible, spontaneous! I'll have a newborn, after all!"

And so, our world was pretty topsy-turvy. (And has been for a long time.) There was no set order, no pattern, no day-to-day schedule or ritual. Of course, I knew where we needed to be and what we needed to do, but my kids did not. (Thank goodness for electronic calendars.) There were playdates and well-checks,  Mother's Morning Out and church affairs and meetings and park excursions, a mid-semester decision to join a homeschool co-op, a myriad of field trips and holiday parties with various like-minded groups, and about the only constant was that on Wednesday mornings we went to CBS and on Sundays we went to church. I felt scattered, they felt scattered, and I had no idea how to get out of it all. I tried setting up daily routines, but of course, they almost never were followed. Why, you ask?

I woke up one Friday morning, about mid-November, about to head out to yet another "planned" event, and realized that I wasn't enjoying my time at home. In fact, I was never AT home. That week, I had planned five "good" events, one for each morning. Church circle, two days of mother's morning out, Bible study, and co-op. My kids, not socialized? Ha! Our problem was that we never actually stayed at home. And the fact that my home was and is a disorganized mess of paper and clutter and toys and clothes only fueled the desire to stay away. I have been running away now for a long, long, time.

It has taken me an entire year, okay, make that five years -- or more-- to realize the importance of structure. When I was a student, or later, a teacher, I thrived on those hourly bells and the expectation of "this is when I eat lunch," even if it was at 10:30 in the morning. Ten years ago, when I became a young wife and homemaker and apartment ministry organizer, and later, after teaching, when I became a stay-at-home mom, I realized I had never been a person of order, no matter how much I might have enjoyed alphabetizing my music collection. My days have never been "well-planned."

This is my "command center." In shambles.
So now, slowly, I am reforming our daily life around ritual, habits, and an expectation that these are the basic building blocks of our days: breakfast, chores, school, playtime, lunch, quiet time, playtime, cleanup, dinner, baths, books, bed. It seems so simple when I write it like that -- so monotonous-- and a part of me stiffens and wants to rebel. "But a schedule is so BORING! So predictable! I am creative! I can't be contained or confined!"

And then, an article like the one above, a word fitly spoken, comes along and wakes me up! Ritual, remembrance-- THIS is where I need to be, in this daily rhythm, at HOME, not jet-setting from one errand to another, from one playdate to the next, from school to home to store to church and back. No matter how "good" and "beneficial" and "necessary" I may think these things are, there is NOTHING more important than being with my children, being with my family.

The best advice I've ever heard on this idea comes from Auntie Leila's blog, of whom I much admire but have yet, until now, to take her full advice. The most important thing for a home to have, she says, is Order and Wonder. She writes:

Think about it: if you can't get dinner under control, how can you help your children explore the world with delight? I keep wanting to say to these questioning ladies: are you peaceful with your own duties? Do you see how many amazing things there are for your children to learn? Have you fed them recently? Washed their faces? Gotten up on time? Read a book?

Order and wonder. Too much of one, and we are out of balance, burning out and convinced we can't do any of it!

The important thing is to try.

So, here we go. I'm trying! What is my first step in establishing the patterns and places I want my children to remember? Staying at home. Real-life friends, if I refuse a playdate or turn down what you think is a very reasonable request, please understand. I tend toward busyness, toward chaos. This is my weakness. So, I'm going to swing the pendulum back a bit and add in more routine.  I'm going to say "No!" more. We are going to stay home more. I am choosing what is valuable over what is fleeting. It may take me an entire year to actually stick to a written schedule for an entire day. "Mrs. Redd's Academy for Boys" may not be the epitome of a perfect, rigid, clockwork organization, but at least I hope our children will know that when the schedule says "lunch," we will be eating lunch! My oldest in particular, the organized one, will thrive in this type of environment. So I am changing for them. I am developing new habits for myself, but everyone will benefit. I want my children to remember their home as a happy place, where they can revel in the familiar and the routine, with enough wonder thrown in that their sweet minds have plenty of room to grow.

I only expose you to this in hopes that I can add the "after" photo to this "before" picture in a future post.

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