RHYTHM. Does that word strike fear or guilt into your heart when you hear it? Rhythm should be something that is inherent to your particular family, and it should be a source of freedom, not any negative emotions. Kim John Payne opens this chapter by noting:
“Life today for most families is characterized more by randomness and improvisation than rhythm. Tuesday wash day? Cookies and milk after school? Sunday roast beef dinner? With both parents working outside the home, these kinds of weekly markers may sound more quaint than realistic. Family life today often consists of whatever is left over, in terms of our time and energy, when the “work” of the day is done. When I ask a mother or father to describe for me a “typical day” in their home, nine times out of ten they begin by saying there is no “typical”.
Just as there are inherent rhythms in the rising and setting of the sun each day and the change of seasons, there are rhythms inherent in us and our own bodies. Our families often too, hold their own inherent rhythms. Our children, in this often hectic world where children are pushed to be miniature adults, NEED rhythm more than ever. It is a source of dependability, a source of reliability and promotes the child’s feeling that the world, their world, is a safe and secure place! This is the essence of believing the world is a good place! This is also the first stirrings of boundaries and of family identity. Rhythm is what you do in your family.
Too often today children are the center of the family, a sun in which the parents orbit around the children’s desires (which is totally different from the what –I-want IS actually what-I –need in the years of being an infant!). Instead, family life, should be that needs of the whole family are set forth as a beautiful trajectory, yes, like the arc of the sun rising and setting in the sun, and the children find their places on the trajectory. This helps children find their own place in the family and the world. The children are part of something bigger than themselves. Rhythm is the thing that can most help with this arc.
This is also important from the viewpoint of simplification. Rhythm does not assume that one parent stays home to “make” the rhythm or that every little piece has to be under your family’s control. It does presume, however, that you have thought through the best ways to make life secure for your child, the best ways to bring in moments of predictable connection each day. Repetition gives meaning to a child’s life. I love how Kim John Payne says this on page 98:
Meaning hides in repetition. We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes. A rhythmic home life has a pattern and a flow. It cadences are recognizable, and knowable, even to the youngest members of the family.
How would your child describe the rhythm of your family? Kim John Payne gives examples at the bottom of page 98. If your family is super busy and super stressed, you need rhythm more than most families do. Kim John Payne gives an example of a family life this on page 99 and talks about providing visual and pictorial markers for young children who are separated from their families during the day due to work and school. He also gives the helpful story of a single mom using a indoor sandbox with a little car, and building representative of school or the store so her child knew what to expect the next day.
Do you love this chapter? What are you gleaming from it?
I liked this chapter and it reinforced what I know about rhythm and that I need to get back to it more strongly. For me, my own inner work is helping me maintain boundaries even in the face of a very whingy, disappointed nine year old.
I just love what you said about helping the children see where & how the fit in the family as a whole. I think because i still have a baby in the house I’m naturally treating all the children with the sun orbits around you motto but expecting the older two to listen when i need them to or help me around the house. They don’t want to comply or even see how i can be asking. Maybe my boundaries are off? We have good rhythm with eating & naps & Sat morn rituals. I’m adding in chores for the oldest but still struggling with how to involve the whole family in a rhythmic beat.
Carrie, it does strike fear in my heart. I never know if IT is enough rhythm. I’m a super Random Abstract person, I hate that about myself but it’s how it is. I was raised in chaos and emotional highs and lows. It takes huge effort for me to do anything in a regular order, even floss and then brush or bush and then floss. I admire and idealize the rhythm, I want to own those towels that say “wash on Monday” etc. I love Amish stories of peace and routine. I get down on myself for not being more predictable. So it’s so hard to look at this issues. I guess I’m just complaining. I’m wondering it other readers feel this way or if you have insight in how to encourage people who are not naturally organized or self-disciplined. Regular meal times, and bed times are the anchors of the day but the in between stuff it so hard to order. Maybe it’s the 6 year old, 4 year old, 18 month, new born ages…does it get easier when they get older. I want to not keep feeling like my kids will be scared cause I can’t stick to a “reading night and and game night”.
You do have a rhythm – you just told me that you have regular meal and bed times. I think when you have very small children and multiple children that might be where it is for right now. You can always build up to the meal as part of rhythm – who sets the table? who gets the flowers in a little vase? who helps prepare? who helps clean up? who helps tidy the kitchen? Your six and four year olds can certainly be part of that. And from there you just keep building little by little, step by step, day after day and year after year. You are doing great! Coming from being raised in chaos is hard, but you are slowly laying down patterns that will benefit your children physically, emotionally and spiritually That is really what rhythm is all about: health.
Blessings and love,
Carrie, Thank you again for being so encouraging. That’s why I’ve read your writings all these years. Your tone is to..present information, call us to a higher level and then encourage. I love that. I love that I feel educated and supported by your writing. Thank you for grace and affirmation.