Summer's over, even if it doesn't always feel that way. I remember as a kid thinking that the weather was supposed to be cool enough on the first day of school to wear a wool skirt. It never was.
School's starting, and with school and its schedules comes the need for families to create some sort of routine so that there's order at home. Routine, on its own, can be two-edged. Conscious routine sounds like an oxymoron.
The best thing about routine is that it supports us. If we know that soccer practice is Tuesdays and Thursdays after school at the school, we know that as carpool drivers, we have two extra hours till we have to pick up the kids. Those two hours are useful -- even if the driver is reading a novel.
Routine also helps families, both parents and kids, know when to connect and when to have private time. Private time is often dismissed in our hyper-busy lives as a luxury. It's not. It's a necessity. Too much togetherness and not enough private time make people cranky. It blurs boundaries and stops us from listening within.
Habit is a part of routine. It's a good thing to put keys in the same place every time one walks into the house. (There's a pretty red basket in my house for just that purpose.) That way no one ever loses her keys, and no one loses time looking for lost keys. It also goes a long way toward being on time in our lives.
At the same time as routine helps us, it can also harm us because routine, by its very nature, can be deadening. Rigidity in scheduling, meeting all our many obligations, lock-stepping to a routine, can cause life itself to feel less than alive. Strange, isn't that?
One of the best memories of my childhood comes from school days that my mother declared hooky days for me. Once she took me to see a matinee of Zeffirelli's movie of "Romeo & Juliet." Another time she took me out for lunch and to hear Gloria Steinem speak. As an only daughter with lots of brothers, I appreciated this girl time with my mama. It also renewed my sometimes less-than-stellar attitude toward school which bored me silly.
In fact, one way to break the monotony of routine is to change the routine. How many different ways are there to get to soccer practice? Who can do laundry and have all the socks match? How can older children feel rewarded for helping younger ones with fractions and still do their own, probably far more, homework?
The thing that cures routines of their ... well, routineness, is imagination.
For parents, when you're bored with a routine, assume your kids are, too. Ask for their suggestions. Spend a dinner brainstorming how to make a routine fun. What would change it? Will it work for everyone? How can everybody get what they need?
Don't be afraid to ask for help from family, therapists, coworkers, friends, pastors, doctors, you name it. Someone somewhere at some time in the past has faced this dilemma and come up with something new -- I can promise you that.
Learn the blessing and the curse of routine and resolve the issue for yourself through intention. In fact, intention will keep routine conscious. Intend to let routine support you and intend to shake it up a bit by imagining something less routine. I think Albert Einstein said it perfectly, "When you examine the lives of the most influential people who have ever walked among us, you discover one thread that winds through them all. They have been aligned first with their spiritual nature and only then with their physical selves."
Bring your Divine Spark -- your Spirit -- to routine and watch routine become the blessing that it's meant to be in every life.