Circling Back at the End of the Day: Family Connection Routine

Evenings are rough. At the of a long day, everyone’s harried and tired, yet the to-do list is unyielding. But we’ve found a way to circle back and connect before day’s end, and it’s so simple. It only takes 5 minutes.

Each evening, after I shower, I call down to the kids to turn off the TV,  clean up the playroom, and pick books. This has been our routine for years. Recently, after a 4AM epiphany, I added another step to the the nightly pattern.

I grabbed my favorite circle blanket, placed it on the playroom floor, and asked everyone to take a seat. We began a new evening ritual that is now so treasured that my 6-year-old races to fetch the circle blanket each night in happy anticipation.

IMG_20180124_060204_232All three kids sit on the circle blanket but, really, only the 6-year-old, 4-year-old, and I participate (the 2-year-old bobs in and out and acts as enforcer when someone speaks out of turn.) I begin by asking who wants to go first. Sometimes I am volunteered, sometimes someone in particular is raring to speak. One at a time, we list the following items without explanation or interruption before we move on to the next speaker:

1. Three things we didn’t like about our day,

2. Three things we did like about our day,

3. One thing we would’ve done differently that day,

4. One thing we’re looking forward to tomorrow.

Some days the kids have three good things but only one bad thing to note. Some days the good things are hard to come by, but together we recall even the minute intricacies — like a yummy lunch or a nice breeze or a smile from a friend — to flesh out our positive trio.

Very often, I’ve found, that the kids are surprised by one another’s lists. They often don’t realize the impact of their actions and words on another’s day, but this activity is helping shed light on their affect on others.

The other night, my middle son listed his sister not including him on the playground as one of his three dislikes du jour. His sister looked offended and scoffed. I reminded her that we don’t interrupt during circle time. Then, during my daughter’s review, she noted that the one thing she would’ve done differently that day was include her brother on the playground. They’re getting it!!

My middle son and my daughter have both come to me separately saying how much they appreciate circle time. And, you know what? I do too. I can voice my missteps of the day (ex: yelling when I wish I hadn’t, not cheering up someone I wish I had, messing up a recipe, etc.) so that they know I make mistakes and feel remorse too. I also get to hear about their days and they hear about mine. We all get a glimpse at how one another processes the day’s events and what one another values, as well as finds particularly hurtful. We learn about each other’s triumphs and hurdles. It’s enlightening, connecting, healing, bonding. And it only takes 5 minutes.

Then, after we’ve completed our sharing, we return to our old routine: story time as usual. Each child hands me his or her selected book then sits in my lap while I read it. Sometimes only one child sits on my legs, other times I’m balancing all three. Either way, my heart — like my lap — is full.

Maybe this circle time routine would work for you. Give it a whirl for a week and let me know how it goes. Worst case, you waste five minutes. Best case, your bonds grow stronger. That’s a gamble worth taking in my book!

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School Daze: Morning Prep

School mornings… as pleasant as a hemorrhoid, no? Early start, grumpy kids (and parents), little time, lots to do, start times, and tantrums (from kids and parents.) Fun!

Though our mornings aren’t scenes of fairytale bliss, and far from serene, they are streamlined. They are organized. How? One word: preparation.

I wake up ahead of everyone to heat breakfasts, pop lunches into backpacks, and begin my day so that by the time my crew shuffles downstairs, the rhythm is already in motion. My first-thing-in-the-morning task load isn’t too great though because I prepare everything I can ahead of time.

Lunches and snacks? Made at the beginning of the week. I simply grab a container stack, the water bottle, and place it in the lunchbox.

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Outfits? Laid out for the school week on Sunday evening based on the weather forecast and week’s schedule. The day’s outfit hung in the bathroom, so there are no clothing battles in the too-early morning.

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Each outfit bundle contains a top, bottom, socks, and underwear

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A week of outfits

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The next day’s outfits

Breakfasts? Prepared and plated the night before. I just heat and place them on the table while my caffeine brews.

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Mama’s caffeine? Set up the night before and ready to brew.

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Mama’s tea

Basically, when I wake up in the morning, it’s a matter of hitting “play” as opposed to scrambling to piece it all together while attempting to ready myself and my minions for the day. (That’s a feat in and of itself.)

We all could use a leg up in the morning. Why not give yourself one with a little prepping?

 

Breaking Boob Curfew

I was at dinner with a fellow mom-in-the-trenches when we both realized it was nearing my witching hour. It was 7:06 and I needed to be in #3’s room, in the glider, boob out, and ready for bedtime nursing in 9 minutes. Crap!

Signing the credit card receipt, I flashed back to three months ago when I arrived home just moments after boob curfew. It was utter chaos. #1 and #2 fighting in the tub, #3 wailing, Hubs about to lose his mind. It was not a good scene.

We bolt home. I drop off my friend, who thankfully lives just a few doors down from me, and I repeatedly push the garage door button from halfway down the street. I know full well it doesn’t work until I hit the driveway, but I’m blindly hoping to somehow speed my entry. I race in the door, hear children fussing, kick off my shoes mid-stride, untie my sundress halter as I take the steps two at a time, and arrive in the master bathroom ready to accept my penance.

Then I realize the actual scenario before me. Two of the three kids are half-naked. Hubs is filling the tub. #1 is lamenting the possibility that the bath suds may ruin her pedicure, #2 is moaning about having to go potty before entering the tub, and #3 is dancing while holding onto the tub ledge like a drunk guy shimmying at the bar to “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Everything was fine. I was not needed. Hubby looked at me in shock. “What was all that?” He asked, referencing my stampeding entrance. “I thought he was going to be freaking out,” I say, motioning to #3. #3 grins at me with his lopsided jack-o-lantern smile, and I realize that being a few minutes late is not the nightmare it used to be.

At nearly a year old, #3 is growing up. He still needs me, just not with the fierce dependence he used to. He’s more human and less leech these days.

I scoop up #3, praising him for the lack of belated-boobie bedlam. Put him in his pajamas, and nurse him into a sweaty, milky sleep. He’s still my baby.