Our routines are the fabric of our being.
I remember my father heading out for morning runs when I was in middle school. He would leave the house before dawn and return while I was just starting to get ready for school. Although he never sat me down and actually had a conversation with me about the importance of running for well-being, somehow it registered. When I entered high school and didn't make the basketball team (on account of the fact that I didn't actually know how to play), track and cross-country came to mind. I never made the direct link to my father's influence, but it was there, as was the influence from my Mom. From a young age, my Mom took me with her to Jazzersize classes, which I loved, and we used to walk all over town, including to school and the grocery store.
I was on a run the other day and thinking about how thankful I am that I have running in my life and how it came to be one of the most important tools in my chest. Through the rough patches in my life, running has been my go-to activity. So much so, that I think of it as a panacea and a one of the key ingredients in a happy, healthy life. Running doesn't just make the tough parts easier, but also the good parts better. I hope that I can run throughout my whole life, just like this video.
My thoughts drifted to the routines and values that I want our little one to grow up with, and how I hope that one of those is regular exercise of some form. It doesn't need to be running, but I want her to get those endorphins in some way, to help shield and insulate her from the rough patches in life, like it has done for me. How can I facilitate that?
The answer became glaringly obvious: The best way to teach is to lead by example.
I feel this great sense of responsibility and also excitement when I think about how I am her Mom and what role I play in shaping her experience in this world. I've dreamed about being a Mom my whole life and now here it is; show time. It is time to put into action all those child development and developmental psychology courses and articles I have read over the years and gather up all of the love my Mom gave me and give it to her. It's time to take what I cherish the most about my childhood and pass it on to her. It's also time to transform and reshape the less than desirable parts, so that I, along with her Dad, can give her the very best start in life.
To be responsible for another human being is really the most important vocation in the world. Her childhood memories and experiences can be anything we choose to create, and will be something that remains with her long after we are gone. Is anything more important?
Below is my list of what I plan to raise her experiencing on a regular basis, with the hope that these routines will become a part of her life when she's an adult.Exercise - As long as we are alive, we're going to have stress. There are a ton of ways to handle stress that may help briefly in the moment, like over-eating or drinking, but only serve to make things worse in the long run. So many people seem to forget that alcohol is a depressant! I regularly tell my students that while we can't often control what happens to us, we can control what we do about it. Exercise doesn't make problems go away, but it certainly makes them seem smaller. Exercise has been proven to be as effective as anti-depressants, and that's why I run, even though I don't like it. We are in the process of adding to our home gym (garage) and are purchasing child gates (which we do not own!) so that she can be in there and watch us, safely. This was my husband's idea, he even said "I want baby A to grow up knowing we work out."
Attending church - Faith has not always been something that was there for me when I needed it, because I fell away from the Catholic church for many years. My journey back has not been easy, but it has been comforting. The stronger my faith becomes, the better I feel about how fleeting life is. Even when I was agnostic, there was no denying the comfort that I saw religion bring many of my closest friends, and I want that for her. We make going to Mass a priority on the weekends, but still have room to improve. Right now, we're attending at least twice per month, and we also go while we're on vacation.
Friends and family - Our family, which was never very big to begin with, seems to be shrinking. I always pictured my Mom as a part of her life and it pains me that she is not, at least not in the tangible sense. I want our girl to know and see that she has a very long list of people who have loved her from the start, and will love her no matter what, just like family. I also want her to know that we love family and are there for them when they need us, even if they have been unkind to us in the past. It's always best to turn the other cheek, be the better person, and forgive.
Cooking and family meals - I want my girl to grow up enjoying family recipes and the stories that go along with them. We rarely ate out growing up and this was part of the reason I weighted 115 pounds my senior year (I'm 5'7"). We all know home-cooked meals are healthier for us, but it's not just about what we weigh and how we look. I want her to have the cancer-fighting power of antioxidants and set her up for a lifetime of healthy eating. I also want to spend that time together in the kitchen preparing the food and all of the conversations about nothing (and yet everything) that will take place not just while we are cooking, but when we all put our technology aside and sit down together. To that end, I recently tried several different food and meal-planning delivery services before deciding on Blue Apron, which I will set up weekly when I return to work in the fall. Prior to putting this in place, it was all too easy to get busy and just have my husband pick me up fast food. The delivery also ensures variety, with me eating several vegetables in the last week that I hadn't purchased in the last year, but enjoy the taste of.
Daily walks - We walk at least 3 miles every evening, usually more on the weekends. While walking doesn't give me the endorphin rush of running, it is still a way to decompress and gives us more time to talk, and more time away from our technology. Our Baby A went on her first walk with us, around the block, my first night home from the hospital.
Reading - The flower girls from our wedding are approaching their teen years and their parents alternate reading to them every night until they fall asleep. I love this! I've been reading to baby A from the start, and she will now turn the pages of the books, though she usually does so when I'm mid-sentence. I joined a book club when she was a few months old, and also started going to our local library regularly for story time. Right now, I'm reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.
Having fun and being silly - Life is just too short to be taken seriously. If you're successful in every way but are always stressed out and don't have fun, what is the point? I want her to grow up seeing her father and I being playful with each other, laughing and having a good time even (especially?) when times are tough.
Service to others - This may not happen on a daily basis, but can certainly happen more than just around the holidays. I plan to start volunteering with her when she's older, but there are also a lot of informal ways that this can take place throughout the year. Sometimes, situations where we can help others present themselves when we least expect it.
The love and care of animals - I grew up with animals and loved nothing more than helping care for them. I wasn't always good at it, as evidenced by the guinea pig that I left out under the eves when it rained, and found floating the next morning (he was in an aquarium, not a cage), but I always enjoyed it. We currently have a dog and a cat, but plan to get a bunny or chickens for her when she is older. Because we're in unincorporated Orange County, we can have chickens, how cool is that? We also want to get a puppy. If it were up to her Dad, we would have one right now, but I'm afraid of a nip in the face, and want her to be a little older.
A grateful heart - It is so easy to forget everything that we have to be thankful for, even when we're going through tough times. Remembering how much we have to be thankful for needs to be an active, rather than a passive, habit. This can happen daily, in small ways such as thanking God in our prayers, or sharing one thing that we're thankful for before dinner. We also have a "Blessings" jar that my friend Andrea gave me years ago. You write down something you feel is a blessing and read them weekly, monthly or yearly. I want to cultivate that in her, and when she passively mentions that she is happy that "......" I want to shine a spotlight on it and be in the habit of saying "Let's write that down!"
Travel - Routine travel means that when we're on summer break (or, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Spring), we travel. It's what we do. I want travel to become the rule, not the exception, for her. I want vacations to be normal and customary, instead of something that happens once in a blue moon. Now, this doesn't mean that we will always going on international trips like we are this year. It may mean trips to Hawai'i, up to Oregon, or even a long weekend at Leggoland. I want breaking our routine to be a part of our routine, if that makes sense. I want her to experience different cultures, see the world, and instill in her a love of continuing to travel. Right now, she has three flights booked, with two of them being international. I can't wait for her passport to get some stamps!
Playing piano - The idea of me sitting down at the piano to play songs just seems so appealing to me. I imagine her by my side, singing the words or having me teach her to play. Maybe we'll play a duet. There's just one problem: I can't read music, and I've never played the piano before. But, we do own a piano that was my Mom's, and tomorrow, on what would be her 65th birthday, we are getting it tuned and fixed (two keys don't work). I have also found a student who will give me lessons for $20 an hour, and plan to start when we return to work. With any luck, I'll be able to play a Christmas song or two by December, besides Jingle Bells.