It happens every time we enter a new season: the need to revisit the rules. I recently noticed that my 5-year-old has been leaving his raincoat and rain boots in the middle of the entryway since the weather started warming up. He’s a fast one, so it always happens before I even realize it. Just as I was about to track him down to clean up after himself, I remembered that all winter long I’ve been asking him to leave his jacket on the entry rug if it’s full of snow. That way I can throw it in the dryer before it gets the rest of our jackets on the coat rack wet. So my son was merely following the instructions I had given him… from the last season.
Ah, it’s time for that “changing seasons” talk we have every year. With the new seasons come new rules, which are really old rules, but apparently, kids don’t remember. Now that Minnesota is finally warming up, the white stuff has disappeared and everything is quickly going from brown to green and luscious, there are a few things I need to remind my kids about. Muddy shoes? Leave them outside, please. Nope, you can’t dig in the middle of the yard! We don’t wear swimsuits to the library. Is it just me, or does anyone else have rules spilling out their mouths? Rules that you never thought you’d ever say? For instance, in this family, we do not lick our flip-flops!
I am getting so excited for summer as I think about these rules! If you can’t already tell, I do like rules. Although I mostly like being in charge of making the rules (likely due to being the firstborn). But in all seriousness, there is something about clear boundaries that makes most of us feel safe. Yet sometimes all the rules can become the priority, rather than the moments that we are living. I could easily spend all summer reminding everyone not to track mud and water into the house, all while missing the fun and laughter that is happening at the very same time. Honestly, I tend to do that in other areas of life too.
Last spring we welcomed our fourth child, a beautiful baby girl! For context, our first three children were born within four years. They’re a tight-knit little posse that made the first few years of parenting a literal blur. After an almost five year gap, as it happens… surprise! We found ourselves back at square one of all things baby.
Even though I have had 9 years of experience as a parent now and I could easily tell you how unpredictable and spontaneous babies can be, I have found myself trying again and again to predict the baby’s patterns. I try to figure out a successful routine, only to be shocked the following week when that routine no longer works. I can’t believe how many times I’ve felt like a newbie mom all over again. I’m looking for that nonexistent rule book that has all the baby stages in order for me to follow. But, as it happens, there really is no such thing. Surprise! Change happens in random order and I feel thrown off by it every time.
Through this experience, I have noticed a sneaky pattern and I’m always amazed I didn’t detect it sooner. Whether it’s the baby’s sleep, an older child’s attitude, my spouse’s job or just about every circumstance in life, things are always changing. And I am constantly trying to apply last season’s rules. Even good change is hard. Transitions take a lot of re-working and re-thinking our game plan and our rhythms.
When I keep trying to play the way I used to, even though the game has changed, sooner or later I realize the reason I feel defeated or discouraged has everything to do with my approach, rather than the change itself. Something that used to always work now doesn’t. I’m getting quicker at realizing that I need to give myself grace and time to adjust. Not to mention how much my kids and husband deserve that grace from me as well! Sometimes we need to band together to figure out the new normal.
One of the big changes that came with our much-adored baby girl was what our homeschool routine looked like. In the fall, I made my plans and set my expectations just as I always did. In fact, even higher, because every year that we have homeschooled I have gained more confidence and added more to our curriculum. But surprise again… it turns out homeschooling with an infant isn’t as streamlined as you would think. I had to adjust my expectations and modify our routine to figure out what worked best for this season. We couldn’t just keep doing what we have always done before. It’s a work in progress, but the atmosphere around our house has changed for the positive since implementing our new math-when-baby-naps flexible routine!
Not only do the “rules” change with the changing seasons, but I have also learned that the rules that work for others don’t always apply to us. There was a time when I thought I needed to find a “normal” that was out there; something everyone else had somehow figured out. There are enough examples and opinions out there telling us what a “normal” routine, family, house, vacation, or social media account looks like. But the truth is that the more I tried to apply their rules to our family, the more miserable things became.
My husband worked night shifts for years, so our family routine looked nothing like most of the families we knew. I would hear of friends’ husbands who helped with the kids’ bath time every single night. Or couples we knew who had a consistent weekly date night. But our reality consisted of inconsistency: 12-hour night shifts, a Daddy that slept during the day, and a work schedule that changed from week to week.
We soon learned that we needed to create our own “normal”. Sometimes we had our “Saturday” on a Tuesday, and we often ate brinner (breakfast for dinner) because that was when we sent Daddy off to work. Sometimes we would go on a traditional out-to-dinner date. More often we would have a home date with leftovers and a movie. Those were some of our best dates. A couple of years ago we were able to go to Disneyland while all the other kids were at school. Pros and cons! That’s how our schedule worked, so we turned it into our own version of normal.
So back to this glorious weather and all my seasonal rules. I’m reminded to slow down and chill out a bit. Change happens all the time and sometimes we overlook how much it really impacts our families, our routines, and us. It may be as simple as the change from school days to summer break, or from a toddler bed to a big bed. It may be hugely significant like a career change or friends moving away. Change impacts how we live and how we react to things, so let me encourage us moms to be gentle with ourselves and with our families as we navigate new normals and adjust our expectations when necessary so we can enjoy the moments that really matter!