Rituals and routines. Teachers understand that these two mainstays set expectations for, and an atmosphere of, success in the classroom.
But as everyday folks, we tend to forget the importance of rituals and routines to relationship success, both in parenthood and partnership.
Our family found ourselves resorting to them out of necessity. When dealing with twin boys and adult daughters in separate cities, we kind of had to, to keep us all connected and emotionally healthy.
Our family keeps and celebrates daily, weekly, and yearly rituals and routines. I’ll start with our daily wake up ones…
Mike and I, we get up early — way too early for mere mortals. But we’re twin parents, so that makes us… EXHAUSTED.
Our alarm sounds at 5:20 AM every weekday. Now, Mike throws his exotic, caramel-macchiato, model good looks together in a matter of minutes. Me, it takes me longer to polish my less-than-model-looks. So while I put on my face, Mike packs our lunches.
Sometimes he brings me coffee, strong and black like my eyebrow hairs — which I must pluck every morning lest they obstruct my line-of-vision. But husband-delivered coffee is not quite a regular morning ritual these days because… well, twins.
The boys didn’t sleep for the first 16 months of their lives, and Mike and I lost a lot of brain cells. Bucket-loads of the little gray things. So now it takes us aeons to do the daily grind, which means the coffee grinds often wait till I wander into the kitchen on my own. But sometimes coffee appears at my vanity while I’m tweezing. And it’s the sweetest surprise.
What Mike does do every day, though, is kiss me good morning and good night. Without fail. And tell me he loves me in a thousand different ways, from words, to actions, to emojis, to even sweet little inspirational notes written on my peanut butter sandwich baggie every single day. Without fail.
But back to our morning routines… every day at 6:30, before leaving the house, both of us are responsible for waking one boy.
Mike is on Parker duty, and my big, burly, teddy-bear-of-a-half-Asian-man climbs into bed with our small, burly, teddy-bear-of-a-quarter-Asian-son and gently nudges him toward daylight — which is no easy task. There’s a reason the sign over Parker’s bed says, “Don’t Wake the Bear.”
Me, I get the easier boy. Tate,’s nickname is Bug, and he crawls into my arms and snuggles into my neck like a little cocooned caterpillar. But then, after about two minutes, he unfurls his shine and rises to meet the day. Easy peasy.
While our morning rituals are essential, our nighttime rituals are essentially sacred.
At dinnertime, the boys often FaceTime their big sisters, a tried-and-true way to keep the love and connection alive long distance.
The girls call and ask about preK or gymnastics, or the boys chat up Bentley and Beau and Bray, their nephews and niece. When you’re a postmodern family with miles and generations between your kiddos — and mere months between your sons and grandsons — you make it work through both technology and trips. And since trips are generally reserved for school holidays, FaceTime, it is.
We are also a multigenerational family who believes strongly in the power of books. (What kind of English teacher would I be if we weren’t?) I read with my girls when they were little — first picture books, then chapter books, then young adult novels — and I’m following the same recipe for success with the boys.
Story time is practically the Candela version of communion, where hugs and cuddles are passed around like daily bread. Where word is made flesh to dwell among us through fairy tales and imagination.
Sometimes it’s Ginny Goblin, sometimes Dr. Seuss, sometimes Marlon Bundo. The books vary, but the ritual rarely does. Daddy reads the stories — since sometimes during football season, those last 30 minutes of the boys’ day is the only time he truly shares with them. And mommy disperses the allergy meds like wine and wafers. Our day is cleansed, decongested, and consecrated through story time.
Which brings me to the sweetest, quietest part of any day: tucking the boys in. The bedtime routines are beyond sacred. They replenish us, which is critical during this whole “the-days-are-long-but-the-years-are-short” twin reality of ours. Because the days ARE so long. So exhausting. But bedtimes, they sustain us.
Mike and I share distinctly different goodnight routines with our boys.
Mike gets quality time with the boys in the bathroom — him sitting tub-side while they hold court on the throne. And hold court, they do, chatting him up about friends, fire trucks, phonics reviews… you name it, he hears it.
And me, I get cuddles and kisses and slow-dancing in the nightlight-illuminated darkness to Jewel lullabies from my iPhone, usually “Forever and a Day.” If you don’t know it, YouTube it. It’s poetic perfection.
Beyond our daily routines, we also have weekly ones: Wednesdays are reserved for gymnastics practice, Friday nights are for Chick fil-A (and football in the fall), and Sunday afternoons are for family baking binges.
And then there’s the holiday rituals: Christmas is for hand-picked, personal ornaments and look-alike jammies for all of the kids, New Year’s is for soul food and Seoul food (southern and Korean fusion at its finest), and July 4th is for fireworks in Dallas.
My family loves itself some rituals and routines.
It’s our way of controlling the chaos. Because Lord knows, twin preschoolers at fifty-something definitely lends itself to chaos. And so does teaching 180-plus high school students essay writing. And being married to a football coach in a successful football program. And having adult daughters living time-zones and lifestyles apart.
Rituals and routines — our family found ourselves resorting to them pretty much out of necessity. They brought this mama and her kin some semblance of connectivity and calm. And in a world full of very little connectivity and calm, I needed it. Desperately.
But now, I think we no longer resort to rituals and routine.
I think we flourish with them.