Coming from the person who thinks that routine brings sanity and that it’s necessary to keep a good routine when you are raising multiple children, this post may seem out a little of character. A few months ago we were speaking with a teacher friend discussing his plans for the break. He said that while he didn’t have big vacation plans, essentially “a change is as good as a vacation.” I couldn’t agree more.
With four small children, I often feel that I never leave the house. Sure, we go to church, visiting, and around and about, but largely we stay at home. Honestly, it just isn’t worth dragging all of them somewhere and taking 45 minutes to get them out of their car seats, into the buggies/strollers for 20 minutes of action. Plus, it’s hard to find a time when the baby isn’t feeding or eating baby food, and my toddlers don’t exactly want to sit still for 30 minutes in public while that happens.
Having said that, enough is enough. Even if I craft my home to be welcoming and lovely, I get sick of looking at it. I feel the need to put on “real” clothes and maybe even makeup. Gasp. I decide to stuff the routine and go have some fun and excitement with the kids. It’s why we try to get relaxed with our summer schedule for kids.
Here’s why I think a change is as good as a vacation.
1. Routine enables fun spontaneity.
It may sound counter intuitive, but routines actually provide the security and stability that allow children to put their best feet forward. If kids are well-rested and well-fed then they’re better equipped to handle crowds of people, over stimulation and new and exciting places. By staying on routine most of the time, you set yourselves up for success when you decide to deviate for a good time.
2. Kids need a change of scenery.
I’ve found that my children need a change of scenery. This can be done in the home if I organize various activities or if we move to separate rooms frequently throughout the day. If we remain in the living room all morning, say on a rainy day, and then go straight to nap time they don’t feel tired. I’ll often pick a day when they’re well-rested and happy and stuff the morning routine entirely by going out and doing something fun. They have a great time exploring and learning and are usually ready to hit the sack by nap time.
3. You need to be refreshed to be positive and patient.
I used to believe I was completely extroverted, but now I believe I’m equal parts introvert and extrovert. I don’t mind being alone and can do so for long periods of time, but I do greatly enjoy social interaction. Often when the kids are being naughty and acting bored I will load us up and go somewhere. Even if it’s not for long, even if it feels like a big hassle, we’ll just go. Being out of the house, seeing other people, eating a treat or just escaping the norm helps refresh me. When I’m refreshed I’m a happier and more patient parent.
4. Disruptions are good training tools.
While we can be careful to craft a good routine at home – and I think we should do this – disruptions also provide good opportunities. Having to wait an extra half hour at a restaurant will help teach your children patience and self-control. Skipping a nap for a family or friend’s event will help them learn to maintain good behavior even when they are tired. If we stayed at home every single day and skipped every event that disrupted the schedule our children would whiz past childhood with only memories within our four walls and surrounding yards.
5. Tweak your routine.
If you start to feel bored with your routine then now’s a good time to tweak it. Find parts of the day that are tedious and change it up. Swap independent play time for free time or outside time. When you feel that the day just passes in a ho hum blur, that’s a good time to start changing things so that you’ll have something different to look forward to.
Sometimes a change is going out for breakfast instead of eating in. Sometimes a change is eating dinner by the poolside instead of at the dining room table. Sometimes a change is going to the zoo all day or going to a friend’s house for an impromptu play date. While a morning in the park is not the equivalent of a week in Fiji…sometimes a change is as good as a vacation.