Our situation is a unique one. We currently have a three-year-old, two two-year-olds, and an almost one-year-old. I recently had someone jokingly inform me that I don’t need to single-handedly provide my parents with all of their grandchildren, and jokes along these lines are now quite common place for us. Equally as common place is the question, “But how do you do it everyday?” We know for a fact that we are quite the traveling circus when we go out, but for those who have not had the opportunity to see us in “The Big Tent,” our day-to-day life is something of a mystery.
I thought I would use this week’s post to unravel some of that mystery, to share with you a taste of what our everyday life is like by walking you through the pattern of our days. We love that our day has a rhythm. We find that structure provides freedom because everyone knows what to expect. There is so much comfort and peace in a home with clear boundaries and goals. I won’t go into details concerning the clock. Some days start later than others, so we just follow our routine gently, with lots of grace and occasional spontaneous mix ups.
The Small Hours
Adam and I begin every morning together. We often hear that once you become a parent your whole focus should be shifted to your children, therefore pushing the relationship of marriage down the priority list. Adam and I combat this misconception by choosing time together at the very beginning of our day. Because our days are so full of other responsibilities the time we do have together is very precious, and we are therefore very intentional about it. We usually spend this time reading or talking and enjoying coffee. We also see the value in discussing our goals for the day together. With a clear path ahead of us we are better equipped to face the obstacles of the day.
Then it’s off to change a whole flock of children, following which is breakfast. Because of Adam’s flexible work schedule he is often able to make breakfast while I am changing the children, and we make it a point of sending the first child that is dressed into the kitchen to help. It’s one of those perfect moments in the day to incorporate little hands into a task.
I like to take our breakfasts as leisurely as can be done with such little ones. Coming together for a meal is very important to our family. We see it as a time of fellowship with one another, a time to discuss ideas, and hear each other’s hearts. Adeline frequently asks her daddy all about what his day will hold. He shares with her the different appointments he has and it usually brings up further questions. Many topics are explored and curiosities explained. At breakfast we fill our souls as well as our bodies.
When the meal is concluded and hands wiped off, we have the children bring their dishes and silverware to the sink and clean up any food that
may have has fallen below their chairs. It is a simple way to teach them to take responsibility for their own messes, and most days one or two of the children come running back to the table to try to find a crumb or two more to clean up.
After breakfast we give the girls some alone time while Judah naps. This is a time in the morning when our daughters are given an hour completely to themselves to play, look at books, or watch the birds and cars out the window according to their own fancy. They each have their own space in which to spend this hour. Adeline’s is the nook off the kitchen and the twins alternate between the girl’s nursery and a Pack ‘N’ Play.
To keep things simple and fresh, we have small baskets of toys and books for each day of the week that are set in their special play places each day. We find that the practice of rotating a small amount of toys daily creates excitement and curiosity in our children, as well as aiding in the containment of toys to certain areas of the house. Also, having minimal toys to put away at the end of Quiet Hour encourages our little ones to tidy up quickly instead of dragging their feet due to being overwhelmed.
This hour alone has become such an important part of our day. With a large family, time to themselves is refreshing and I notice such joy coming back together when the hour is up. I also love how it encourages creativity and imagination. I am often impressed with the different ways the girls play with a toy each time they find it in their basket.
Following Quiet Hour I bring the girls together in their play room. We have several groups of toys that are rotated in this space weekly. The idea is the same as the rotated baskets during Quiet Hour; a fresh set of toys every week inspires excitement, and less toys at a time encourages creativity and true play. The goal is not to entertain our children with stuff; we want them to explore, to learn, and imagine.
While they play together, the children are also learning about how to get along together. Of course with so many different personalities there will always be tiffs, but these early years of our children’s lives are some of the best for instilling the basic virtues of getting along. There are daily opportunities to grow in kindness, compassion, generosity, and patience. Some days it takes me kneeling in the midst of a serious issue of “who had it first,” while other days I haven’t said a single thing as one beaming girl hands a toy to another.
Most days during this time I take one of the girls out to help me with a chore. It might be laundry one day and dishes the next. Including a daughter in my household tasks each day gives me one-on-one time with them as well as an opportunity to teach them how to participate in keeping our home in order.
Both Quiet Hour and Playtime are very structured parts of our day, but what we have found is that these boundaries provide great freedom for our children in that everything within these spaces is a “yes.” There is nothing that they cannot touch or play with.
The Time In-Between
The time between Play Time and Lunch varies a bit. Judah is woken up from his nap and given lots of time to crawl around wherever the rest of us are. Usually one of several things happens for the girls at this time. Either they are in the kitchen with me helping with lunch, playing with magnets on the fridge, dancing across the floor, or they are in their highchair working on an activity. We have a storage bench that is full of things like puzzles, paints, color books, stickers, etc. ready at any point an activity is needed. I enjoy the lead up to lunch because of the opportunity to be creative with a chunk of our time.
I will conclude here for today, with a promise to share the rest of our routine in the next week or two. And if you have any thoughts or questions thus far, please do share in the comments section below.