From the Inbox:
Maria wants to know about schedules with little ones. She has four boys under the age of five (hey! I remember those days), and she wrote to ask what kind of schedule I kept with my boys. Being the wise woman that she is, Maria has picked up on the fact that her boys do better on a schedule. I agree! If that is one thing I can tell you about boys, I have learned (the hard way) that the tighter the ship (within reason) the better the boys behavior.
Case in point: we recently went through some struggles with one of our boys and all roads pointed to a need for more structure in our schedule. We hunkered down and things are going so much better. So having a schedule (for some this will look much, much more intense than others!) really helps.
When my boys were all little (newborn, one year old, three and five), I kept a strict schedule but certainly nothing scheduled down to the minute. As you can imagine, we didn’t go too many places that didn’t allow flex. Library story hour with four boys five and under was not too appealing. I won’t lie, I didn’t love taking them to most parks. In that season, my idea of a good time was heading to the McDonald’s play place (outdoor preferred, far less germs, snob that I am). I’d hunker down with my extra large beverage and watch my boys run in a very, very confined location. During that season my best friends would invite me to the park and I would say “I’ll only go if you help chase my boys.” And they would, as best they could. If a park didn’t have a totally enclosed set-up, that park was out of the question for the Family Balducci.
Here’s the thing: it was the best of times and the worst of times. I remember feeling like so many of life’s activities were just out of the question for me. Our community has an annual All Saint’s Party. I feel like this (THIS!) year was maybe the first year I haven’t absolutely hated that party. Large open spaces and lots of people? HATE. Same with the annual Fourth of July party. I would be the mother whose children were dressed in matching neon green golf shirts. Everyone else sported red, white and blue so this helped me spot my four boys who were (as always) running in the exact opposite direction of where I stood, and all four in tangents pointing away from each other.
SO. What I’m saying is, the times they were a challenge.
Boys do need structure. What that looks like will vary from family to family. For me, it was enough to know we had breakfast, playtime, an outing, lunch, naps, playtime, dinner and EARLY bed. Bedtime could not be flex. That was my saving grace and I also learned early on that my boys needed to go to bed earlier than I would have thought. No later than seven. Even these days, Isabel goes to bed by 6:30 almost every night. And she’s coming up on three. (I am a firm believer in toddlers going to bed before the strike of that dreaded ‘second wave’ of energetic mania.) We kind of forgot this rule for a few years with Henry and were reminded in a most painful manner that children under the age of six shouldn’t be up past eight. Seriously.
Here’s my take-away thought on schedules and routine: it is there to serve the parent (primarily, but also the children) and NOT the other way around. Don’t make a schedule that’s timed hour-by-hour if that doesn’t fit your personality. The thought of having every day planned from dawn til dusk might totally stress you out. You might do better having a rough idea (a morning plan, an afternoon plan). Whatever helps you stay sane and happy! Seriously. But do keep in mind that children (especially boys? I can’t speak for girls too much just yet) do much better when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. This is true for toddlers and teens.
Thanks for asking, Maria — and keep up the great work! I hope this season is filled with peace and joy and lots of laughter and love.