August 31, 2012 by greenhouse04
I well remember the first week we had children. It was overwhelming, terrifying, and seemingly never-ending.
Our very first taste at parenthood came in early 2010 with the arrival of our first two foster kids, “Jake” & “Ellie”, aged 20 months and 3 years. I called my mom at the end of the week and told her, “I’ve lost control of my life! How do I get my life back!” She was sympathetic (while not at all surprised), and gave me good advice: structure.
Thus began my parental habit of structure.
Back then, I became very structured in order to find some semblance of sanity. I made a clock which said “What time is it?” to which I could attach pictures of different activities. I had pictures for meal time, bath time, bed time, quiet time, play time, outdoor time, and snack time, and chore time. I trained Jake and Ellie to understand what to expect in each “time,” thereby giving myself set times in which I wasn’t expected to entertain them (they were remarkably NOT good at entertaining themselves).
I’m still a structure-loving parent, although I have long since retired the clock. However, every (normal) day my kids know that in the morning, after chores are finished, we play, have a snack, do school, then I do “Mommy work.” After this its lunch, followed by Quiet Time (yes, this time of the day derserves capitals!). Afterwards its another snack, followed by time for whatever (play or Mommy work or both), supper, family play, and bedtime.
Bedtime has a sub-structure of its very own. If you ever babysit for us at bedtime, I even have a blow-by-blow bedtime schedule for you to follow.
For those who are interested, bedtime goes like this:
Read book or two
Sing 1 – 3 songs in Eddie’s room (both kids snuggling in his bed)
One parent takes Emma and sings a few more songs while rocking her, then sings her “crib song” as he/she puts her in her crib. This is a song we sing every bed and naptime so she knows she’ll be put to bed… and she rarely fusses!
The other parent prays with Eddie, turns on his music, and says the good night poem: “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed-bugs bite, may your dreams be bright, see you in the morning light, love you with all my might!”
Some nights bedtime begins with a bath or with a bedtime snack, and some nights there’s only one parent doing the duties (a lot of nights, in fact… church meetings are always in the evening).
But here’s the best part: most nights, minus baths, with both parents present, we can get those kids in bed with no fussing in 15 minutes or less! Then we get two hours before our bedtime to do whatever we want!
This is why I love structure.
There are times when I’m a little embarrassed that I’m so structured. I wish I were more flexible with my time and expectations, more laid-back and free-and-easy. But I’m beginning to see how structure can be a blessing.
Because I have a daily and weekly schedule, my priorities for our family and myself can usually be achieved (if I keep the schedule with self-discipline). There is time in every day for prayer, scripture meditation, exercise, fun-time with kids, teaching, alone time with a husband, and household chores. Because of structure, I’m building into my children self-discipline and regulation, and trust in their parents’ faithful care. Because of structure, I have time to help my husband with his ministry even while raising kids: each week I can teach a bible study, make a bulletin, and more. I have time for friends and church people: playdates, prayer groups, counseling (during the two hours after bedtime), and visitations. I can add new ministries as God directs: visiting a non-church person who had a stroke, mentoring a troubled teen.
We’ve seen fruit from structuring our finances as well. When a budget is used and debt is avoided, there is money left over with no urgent claims that can be used to help others and for God’s kingdom.
I suppose structure in a life can be compared to structure found elsewhere – in building “structures.” 🙂 If a building has a good structure – built on a good foundation, with strong, rigid walls, a solid, thick roof, and a sensible and useful layout – it can be a long-lasting, reliable blessing to all who need its shelter.
Dependibility, helpfulness, and yes – freedom, flexibility and generosity – are the blessings of structure.