Routine keeps our home in balance

But over the years it’s changed a bit

Routine has always played an important role in the continued harmony around our house.
It sounds weird, but my wife and I learned the importance of routine from our dogs. We had two German Shepherds years before my daughter was born. We'd goof around saying that the dogs were a test-run for when we had kids.

Only years later did I realize it wasn't a joke.

During our time with the dogs we were taught three valuable lessons: Be consistent, be fair and stick to a routine. We applied those principles from the day we brought our daughter home from the hospital.

My wife would read to her every night – “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” – from the time she was five days old. We weren't under any illusion she comprehended any of it, but five days suddenly became one year, and one year suddenly became four. Yet every night would end the same: with a story, a song and a kiss goodnight. Bedtime was never a problem.

Even today, our family's routine is fairly ingrained. Every day my daughter, now 10 and in the fifth grade, gets off the school bus. She comes in with a hearty, “Hellooooo,” taken from a Seinfeld episode that first aired 10 years before she was born. I'm pretty sure she's never seen it, but there she is – every day – channeling George and Jerry.

“How was school?”

“It was good,” she says.

“Just good?” I ask.

“No, it was great,” she says. And she means it. Then hugs ensue.

“What did you do at recess?” I ask.

This is where complete anarchy can find its way into our afternoon exchange: Four-square or kickball. You never know which way it'll go. It's quite nerve-wracking.

“Who sat with you at lunch?” comes next.

Our daughter has a peanut allergy, so she sits at the peanut-free table at school. Depending on the day the roster includes one or all of “Michael, Riley, Kira, Kaitlyn, Madison or Colleen.”

And every day I ask the same question – “What did you guys talk about?”

She has yet to give me a concrete answer. It's not that she's keeping it a secret. I can only envision a bunch of 10-year-olds talking about “The Banana Splits” or “Star Wars,” which shows how long it's been since I was 10.

After that it's homework, violin, dinner, the first period of the Bruins game and bed. On certain nights there's hockey practice. But that's pretty much our routine every Monday through Friday. Of course there are days that defy this plan entirely. She might play with the kids next door or try to sneak in some quality Minecraft time with her cousin. It's served us well over the years. She knows what's expected, and it keeps everything on schedule and everyone fairly sane.

But there's one part of the routine that fell by the wayside when I wasn't looking. It's been a while since my wife or I read a story to her before bed. That nightly tradition slid away quietly as she got older. She reads her own stories now. I didn't really notice at first, but then I found “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton and realized how much time had passed since we “brush and brush and brushed our teeth.” I can still recite most of it by memory, thanks to many nights spent pouring over it with her. I hope she remembers that routine, in particular.

Bill Burke is a writer who lives in southern N.H. with his wife and daughter, who somehow effortlessly quotes “Seinfeld” from time to time.

Categories: Dad on Board