Picture it, the Hirn household after 5 days of winter break, painful. One child is jumping off of a couch asking for candy. Another is screaming in a timeout because he threw his brother’s new toy and when sternly told to go get it and give it back he responded with a, “Why don’t you get it?!” Another is begging for playdough while you can see the stream of toys strewn behind him that he essentially just pulled out only to move on to another thing. I can truly stand in the middle of all of that and think to myself, I did this, this is my fault.
Every year I tell them to live it up on break. Watch all the movies, sleep in and stay up late, play outside for 10 minutes then come in only to go back out for another 10. We eat a big breakfast or a late lunch or something else that throws off meal time so I let them have granola bars and string cheese for dinner, go nuts! Then literally, they go nuts. They don’t know why they can’t control themselves a week in. They just know that all of a sudden Mom is angry more often and they feel tired and wired at the same time.
Their habits are important. Kids need those structures and rituals, basic as they may be, to support them. It is easier for them to do what they are supposed to, like politely ask for a small piece of candy, play together with their siblings, speak respectfully to other people, and pick up a toy or two before asking for another. They can do those things, I’ve seen them with my own eyes. It isn’t just a fluke or a stroke of good fortune that does it though. It comes from knowing what to expect, it comes from full bellies, and sleep my goodness does it come from sleep. They are different animals when their sleep patterns are off. Most people with kids already know this right. I mean, we all fail at it to certain degrees, see above, where we think this will be good, lets have some freedom, then it all unravels in front of your eyes and you do the movie quality slow motion ohhhh nooooo as they start taking off their clothes at Grandma’s house.
Do you ever consider the power of your habits though? I mean sure, you probably know not to jump on the couch and keep your shirt on at family gatherings but maybe when your habits are falling by the way side you lose your shirt in other ways. I, for example, go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every morning. I do the same routine Monday through Friday with a ever so slight variation on the weekend. I feel accomplished and centered and focused on my key priorities when I do that. Then during break week I stay up later to pick up the house and do a load of laundry. It is harder for me to get up on time. I don’t get everything done in the morning to the same quality that I normally would. When that happens even one day, just one, I can feel that I am off. I am a little shorter with my temper and a little more distracted during the day as I try to multitask what I didn’t get done.
As I write this, just yesterday my little dude had to say “Mommy will you play with me?” at least 5 times while I said in just a minute because I was trying to make up for lost time. On the last time (when it finally got through and I stopped messing with the vacuum) he said, “Mommy? Will you pweeese play with me, now?” How heart breaking does that sound? I promise you it is worse in person. Thankfully the drawn out please with the missing L did shake me out of my multitasking state. But sure enough I fell right into my other side effect of lack of habits as soon as the big guys came in from outside for dinner. They were all excited to tell me about their day and marched in with their snow gear still on. On a normal day I would have said something like, boots off first then I’d love to hear! but not yesterday. Nope, I greeted them by shouting that they get their stuff off and wash up for dinner.
Without the support of our routines and our positive habits we’re on unsteady ground. We use those very basic blocks as corner stones to keep our day on grounded. It could be as elaborate as reviewing your daily calendar, working out, getting in the Word, and setting an intention for the day or it might be that you brush your teeth at a certain time each morning. However simple or intense, it sets you up for success. This is why in It’s the Most Craziest Time of the Year, I make a big point of saying to stick to them. Now, clearly I know that it isn’t possible 100% of the time. In those instances, I would just encourage you to reflect and understand how missing them is impacting you, and those around you. When I yelled at my kids for coming in with their dirty, wet snow clothes on it would have been easy for me to entirely blame them for the situation but they aren’t responsible for my reaction. Having the routines, knowing they were jacked, and understanding how that effects me enabled me to redirect the course (including an apology) rather quickly.