There's nothing more comforting than routine, especially for children. And really… isn't this true for us all? We wake up and expect the newspaper to be in the lawn, double-bagged so that the dew hasn't ruined our morning reading. We start our cars, expecting them to run. We go to work, anticipating the tasks ahead. We eat lunch. We fight taking a nap. We count down the hours, and then leave in our dutiful vehicles, headed to our homes, which should be waiting for us when we arrive. All life inside should have stories to tell and hungry bellies to fill. Dinner is prepared. Sleep comes. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
The irony of raising children is this: for little people who thrive on routine, they are bound and determined to destroy any patterns of behavior that were set prior to their arrival in this world. Sunday naps? HA! Fat chance! Saturday sleep-ins? A thing of the past! Movies?!?! Are you crazy? Pretend such things ever existed! Dinner with friends or your partner where actual conversation takes place? NEVER!!! Time for hobbies like guitar playing, knitting, listening to music, finishing a cup of coffee, reading three paragraph articles in magazines, writing a blog entry?! Mwahahahahaha! Oh, and forget exercising! If it doesn't involve fishing out plastic toys that are covered in dog hair from underneath the couch, or lifting 25 pounds of dead weight off the floor after a tantrum, then it's not happening. Basically, anything you enjoyed doing (sleeping late, waking early, going to work, not going to work, listening, playing, running, cooking, writing, reading, eating, breathing, having a normal pulse) cannot happen anymore. At least not in the same way.
Sunday afternoon naps have always been a staple in my house. Always. I count on them, especially as a clergyperson. There's a running "joke" in the house (I say "joke," because I'm not sure if I think it's funny) that we all we do is stand up for 10 minutes on Sundays, so why should we be so tired? Ha. The reality is that even for extrovert me, I am wiped out after leading two services and teaching a class on Sunday mornings. I always stay up too late, because I'm a Saturday Night Live addict. So, Sundays are my grace period when I can make amends for bad decisions made the night before.
Recently, Matt and I went to see The Everybodyfields, who are long time friends of mine from my Camp Wesley Woods days in East Tennessee. Seeing them always puts me in my place – hearing them makes me want to weep with nostalgia and scream with delight at the same time. Their music is so evocative that it makes me aware of my deep, dark corners where sometimes the light forgets to filter and other times it shines so brightly that I have to shield myself from the glory.
We arrived at the venue, met up with some folks we knew and waited for the show to start. Which it did…at 11:40 p.m. On a Saturday night. Yikes. But, the show was incredible. Matt was blown away, and so was I. I'm so proud of them, these friends of mine who are living the dream. I envy them a bit. A small part of me wants to be up there with them, singing my heart out and preaching truth in verse. But, I'm no good at songwriting, and it might get weird for my babies to never know which city we were in. That would be a big challenge to their routine, as they like to sleep in the same bed on a regular basis and all. They would dig the van rides, though. Those boys love minivans…
We finally left, mid-set, at 1:10 a.m. Our age and stage of life were tattooed on us as we snuck out of the venue, looking guilty and a little relieved. We took an "aw-shucks," approach to the babysitter, who opted not to sleep and looked a little antsy to get home. We paid her a little extra, hoping that our tacit apology would suffice. We crashed.
The boys, of course, woke up at 5:45 a.m. and decided that this was a GREAT time to practice their hammering. Yeah. Hammering. Two boys, with hammers. At 5:45 a.m. on a Sunday. O Death, where is thy sting? 'Cause irony has the market cornered over here.
We negotiated some continued sleeping options with the boys, which included my 6'5" husband volunteering to sleep with our 2’6" toddler in his unusually narrow bed so Jackson and I could get some sleep. I finally got up, headed to church, leaving my sleeping brood behind. The beagle mocked me with his snores. He’s such a jerk sometimes.
Church was wonderful. My class was terrific. The storm made all of us slow and drowsy. And then, it was time to go home to the promised land of Sunday naps. Cooper fell asleep on the drive home. Jackson, the fighter of naps and defender of consciousness beyond reason, chattered away. We moved the baby into his bed, had lunch, and Matt encouraged me to take my long-awaited nap. But, I moved too slowly. We changed the channel, and found The Princess Bride in the opening minutes of the narrative, showing on PBS. Now, I like this movie, but I can’t quote every line, and I never argued to name our firstborn Wesley (though, I could make a case for it). But, for some reason, on a sleepy, rainy Sunday afternoon, it grabbed me. Jackson and I sat on the couch, cuddled under our favorite napping blanket, and watched it from start to finish, while Matt dozed beside us. We watched, Rodents of Unusual Size and all.
This is not routine. It’s a far more grown-up movie than Jackson should have been watching. And we never watch movies, so his attention span hasn’t been challenged to last this long. For goodness sake, he couldn’t even make it through an hour and 37 minutes of Wall-E last week. But, despite Matt’s earnest encouragement for me to go and rest while I could, I simply couldn’t tear myself from that place of comfort and sharing.
We sat, talked about the characters and the fighting. The pretty princess and the castle. He worried about her horse and the mean king. He hid behind his blanket when the eels came. He snuggled into my armpit as the story unfolded, and there was nowhere else I would rather be.
I had been thinking that morning that I really missed the ability to sleep or watch an entire grown-up movie without disruption or lingering guilt. I thought about how great it would be to do that, knowing that it was impossible. And I was right. It is impossible now to do those things, because I really don’t want that for myself. I love my children. I delight in them. I love our family time and their goofy ways of being. What a surprise it was to find that I could have both.
Maybe routine isn’t so comforting after all.
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