All things being equal, I’d like to keep a regular schedule. I’d like to have my day divided into neat little blocks of time, and simply progress from block to block. At any given time, my routine would be so ingrained that I wouldn’t need to consult my schedule. I’d check the time and know immediately what it is that I’m supposed to be doing.
Life with three kids, or really any number of kids, requires more flexibility. Over the past six years, I’ve tried and failed to implement routine and structure, only for each attempt to buckle and break. Appointments, weather, unplanned outings, sickness, or other conflicts can’t manage to find their way into a schedule etched in stone. Even worse, there are almost no digital tools that allow me to schedule our day quickly and easily.
I’ve come to learn that the best schedule is dictated by a task list. Each day we need to read, explore, play, and create. I wake up in the morning, vet my list, and then as free moments bubble throughout the day, I simply choose an activity from the menu. When the kids tire of playing together after breakfast, we sit down to read a chapter book. When they start to fight, we go outside to burn some energy. It’s a fluid schedule that doesn’t come naturally to me, but that fits our lifestyle.
The danger that comes with a free flowing schedule is the same that comes to any process without structure or discipline. I call it drift. It happens slowly, and over time, but that one hour of screen time each day stretches further and further. A virus that hops from child to child reduces our busy lifestyle for two or even three weeks. Getting back on task is no easy feat.
The only way that I know to combat drift is get back on the horse. No job, outing, or activity is as mentally taxing as my mind would make me believe beforehand. Loading up all of the kids and taking them to a museum may seem overwhelming when the kitchen is a mess and we haven’t put away toys in days. But 30 minutes of focused work and we have a clean house and three happy campers.
Drift will force you into the gutters and away from the noble aims that you have for your day and your children. Watch out for it.