Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 7

“The Common and Ordinary.
The Schedules and Routines”
I am writing this book shortly after my 65th birthday. I have eight children, and twenty-eight grandchildren. At the moment of this writing, I have been alone for almost three weeks. I am taking a brief respite from work and travels, and am enjoying being able to make my own schedules and establish my own routine.

Ordinarily, I am with one or more of my children, their spouse and their children. So there are times when I must “go with the flow,” and keep up with their pace. If I am traveling with my son, David, and his wife, Jolene and their three children…which is the only way I can spend time with them every two years during their visit in America, and before their return to their mission field of Ukraine…I must go on their strict routine and schedules.

When I’m at home in Chiapas, living across the drive from my church, necessitates doing certain things before people arrive in my yard for certain activities.

Even during this luxurious break from my normal routine, I am staying in a mission apartment, so I must comply with certain schedules of the church activities, which I thoroughly enjoy: ladies’ Thursday morning visitation, ladies meetings, and other church activities.

Can one ever say, “I am the sole ruler of my life? I can plan my day how I want, doing exactly what I would like to do, and when, and until I get ready, I’ll not quit?” Will I ever be so independent that I can completely eliminate all interruptions and distractions? I think not.

If that is your dream, as it is mine at times, let me confirm that the happiest person on earth is not the person who has all the money she wants to spend, spending it however she likes, with whomever she pleases. She does not get up at her leisure, and sleep whenever she gets tired.

Even in this brief time that I am at liberty to “do as I please, and go as I please,” I have found myself forming little limitations, routines, and schedules. Not only do I feel more rested than if I had nothing to account for having gotten up in the morning, but I actually have a sense of having accomplished things that I could have otherwise not gotten done had I been surrounded by children and grandchildren. I schedule times for reading, relaxing, and napping. I have a routine for shopping, and doing fun things. I have gone to the library, and browsed through expensive purses and suits, although I haven’t purchased them.

There is something inside us…at least inside me…that demands order…reasons for doing what I do, answers to “what am I doing here, and why am I doing this?”

And so it is with raising children.

I remember when my children were small, I would go to bed at night, and look back over my day with disgust. What had I done? I had washed, and cooked and cleaned. I had bathed my children, washed dirty faces and hands before meals. I had put them down for naps, washed out diapers, folded mountains of laundry, and I had made out menus and grocery lists. I had home schooled. All these activities were products of routine and schedule. And I would think, “I just worked and worked all day around my children, and never took time to talk with them, or play games with them, or listen to their stories.” Than I would begin to fantasize about the next day, and how I would change my life: “I’ll get up in the morning, and before I dress, or fix breakfast, or start school, I’ll sit down in the living room floor and play games with them. I’ll leisurely stroll into the kitchen, and have breakfast on the table in twenty minutes. Then before dishes are done, we’ll dress and go out for a walk.”

And on and on my fantasizing would go.

The next morning, just as one would step onto a ramp like the one you put your groceries on at Wal-Mart, or lug your luggage (so that’s where luggage got its name!) onto the ramp at the airport, I would step out of bed, and onto my routine-ramp, and before you knew it, it would be eighteen hours later, and I had nothing more to show for my day than the same things I had performed the day before.

But without my even knowing it, I was creating a nest of security for my children, and for myself. My children knew what to expect. They knew what came next, and what was expected of them, and what they could look forward to. There were certain dishes I prepared on certain days.

The greatest damage the devil can do to your happiness is to convince you that you are doing everything wrong. You’re the reason for all your problems. And many times he convinces us to do things the way everyone else around us is doing it.

From the time our children were born, until they left for college, we had a naptime routine. This didn’t necessarily come at the same time every day, but it did fall into the same slot: immediately after lunch, which at our house was about 2:00. We raised our children in Mexico, where the big meal of the day is served in the afternoon, usually between 2:00 and 3:00. This beautifully allows families to come home from school and work, enjoy a leisurely meal together, and then return to their work or school around 4:00. This is called, Siesta Time, and in my little mountain village, many shops and businesses close down during that time.

This is perhaps why this routine started, but even today, I find myself looking for a quiet corner wherever I am, as soon as lunch is over, and dishes are done, and enjoying a thirty-minute to hour long nap. I won’t go into the benefits of this tradition, because I’m talking about routines and schedules.

But even as I have spent these three weeks alone, I religiously take my delicious naps every afternoon. The great joy of being alone is that I can manage my own naps whenever I like…not while grandbabies are down for their naps.

There is a joy, and sense of fulfillment, a feeling of “doing what I should be doing, when I should be doing it,” in routine and schedules, even at my age. I schedule one hour for writing this book, immediately after my devotions. So my mind is not tangled up in thinking, “I should be preparing my IRS, or making phone calls, or running to Wal-Mart.”

Isn’t this somewhat similar to being in the center of God’s will? While your children are too young to know God’s will, schedule and routine will provide that safety for them, that feeling of being secure in knowing that they’re doing exactly what they should be doing, at exactly the right time. This familiarity with our activities creates this warm soothing comfort zone. There is the looking forward to story time after supper around the table. “This is a tough math problem, but as soon as I’m through, I can work on my spelling words.”

Don’t you remember as a child sitting in a classroom, maybe absorbed in trying to answer a history question, and all of a sudden visions of sitting around the dinner table came to your mind? How comforting, and soothing simple routines provide for us in our times of distress.

Is it possible that my two young friends, Josh and Caleb, even as I write, are somewhere in a prison, with thoughts of their father’s home going only three days ago…and their not being able to be with their families? What could possibly get anyone through such an agonizing experience? Do they have memories of their father doing the familiar, routine things with them? The familiarity of his being behind the pulpit, of always standing for what was right? Could this be their cushion in a cold prison? This warm memory of “Dad always…”

Is it family vacations he always provided for his children, and their families every year? This “looking forward to the familiar?” Tradition, routine, schedules…that’s what brings happy memories, and cozy comfort in cold, dark prison cells.

It was routine that allowed our family to always have devotions around our dining room table. It wasn’t the powerful messages that came out of those routine times. I never had time to prepare anything, and many times my mind wouldn’t have allowed me to organize spiritual thoughts in order to convey them to my children. It was routine that allowed my children to learn Scripture passages from the time they could sit up in a high chair.

Sitting around our table, Bibles in front of us, my little papers with Scriptures to be quoted and the Scripture of the week to be memorized, brought a feeling of “everything’s going to be all right. Everything is where it should be, and everyone is where they should be.” That sense of well-being, and peace comes forth from routine…the same ole same ole.

If I had not cultivated the habit of routine, the “this-comes-after-this” way of life, there are times when I wouldn’t know which way to go when I wake up in the mornings. Perhaps because as people grow older there is this sense of not having enough years, or months or days to get everything done that I would like to accomplish in this lifetime. I feel at times that there is going to be more crammed into the next day, because I didn’t get it all done today. There is a peace, a sense of direction and purpose and accomplishment every morning, as routine guides me through my maze. It’s the turning on the coffee pot and heading for the shower…steps firm and sure that I’m doing at least one thing right this day, and so everything else should fall into place, too. Even though my mind is numb with drowsiness, and I know by looking at the clock, and by the way my body is screaming to “please, one more hour under the covers,” that three hours’ sleep is not enough to perform all the activities that lie ahead. But by the time I’m through with the normal routine, and I sit down with my coffee and Bible, I have a certain feeling of accomplishment, and of being ready for the day.

It’s that turning off the decision maker…knowing exactly what comes next…that frees my mind, once it’s awake, to start praying for my children, and the other people and things and problems I pray for every day.

There is one simple thing I’ve learned in this life: the fewer the decisions, the fewer the mistakes. The fewer the decisions, the more freedom for peaceful thoughts and tranquility. There’s no “shall I start laundry today, or wait one more day?” Well, at my house if it’s Monday or Thursday, it’s laundry day for me. No decision there, so if the electricity goes off on Monday morning, I can put something else in the laundry slot for Monday.

When my children were all at home, I had…please don’t laugh…certain dresses for certain days. I absolutely loved Saturday’s at our house, because that’s the day we didn’t have school, and I got to do only housework that day. I had a yellow dress that I used only on Saturday’s. It was short sleeved, so I had more freedom to roll out the dough for our cinnamon rolls. I never wore that dress on Wednesday’s or Monday’s…just Saturday’s. I don’t particularly like yellow, and I don’t believe it’s my color, but it was given to me, and so I wore it for housework.

So what do yellow dresses have to do with anything? I would have asked the same question before my children left home.

But after they left for college, imagine the comfort in midst of the agonizing homesickness of knowing exactly what I was wearing when my children would think of home on Saturday’s….this yellow cushion to curl up on.

No matter how silly your routine, or how weird yours may be, don’t be afraid of it. It’s tailor-made for you and your children.


Anonymous said...

Mrs. Sloan,
This chapter was (is) a real blessing to me!! I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing.... Thank you so much for sharing your book with us.
Becky Kowach
Missionary wife and mother in Korea

Anna said...

I cant thank you enough for your post. I know that the Lord had me follow a blog trail to end up here, at this time reading this post. I know in my heart that I am where the Lord wants me. But the hard part is not getting distracted by the Devils ploys, what others think, and the worlds way.