So here’s the thing about me. I have a terrible ambivalence about schedules. I love their tidy organizational clarity. I like fussing around making lists and spreadsheets and calendars. But I know that when it comes to living my life I much don’t like clocks, and I much prefer freedom to structure. So I rarely schedule anything in my life, because it seems so pointless. My mantra throughout my years of parenting has been “a rhythm, not a schedule.”
Outside activities impose a certain amount of scheduling on us. Today for example, I had to run Erin to town at 8:45, there are violin lessons from 10:30 to noon, I teach from 4:00 – 4:45 and pick Erin up at 5. But other than those fixed elements I’ve always thought “rhythm, not structure,” the sort of rhythm that says that creative time tends to happen in the early afternoon, and practicing is usually in the early evenings, and tidying fits in just before and just after supper. Theoretically.
The problem is that the rhythm isn’t working very well with six people in this family whose needs and desires are increasingly divergent. The reality is that while I tend to envision daily rhythm as being like a confluent ebb and flow of waves on a seashore, our rhythm is like a confused set of wakes overlapping and resulting in splashes, peaks, troughs and unexpected forces pushing us all this way and that, occasionally threatening to topple us into the drink.
Evenings chez Burkholder, for example. Chuck likes to chill and watch TV and play guitar (yes, often simultaneously). I like to run. Fiona prefers to practice violin, which she should do with my help. Noah is just getting going for the day and would prefer that I be available to facilitate his academic work in the evenings, but not until after he has practiced, which is usually after a bit of time on the computer. Sophie likes to practice and then get busy in the kitchen. Erin uses her evenings for schoolwork, practicing and an early-ish bedtime. Fiona likes doing math or science with me after she’s done her practicing. And we’re all living in the same relatively small space. And then somehow we forget that two or three evenings a week are devoted entirely to rehearsals, work or other such pursuits. Since supper doesn’t usually finish until at least 7 pm I can’t possibly ensure that I do all the necessary inititation and facilitation in the same three-hour window every day.
So running gets squeezed out. Fiona often practices alone. Noah rarely gets the academic facilitation he prefers, so he’s not getting through his coursework. Fiona’s bookwork is hit or miss. The kitchen is a mess. And particularly as reporting for our DL program looms I realize that we’re not doing terribly well at fitting in the things we want to do.
Last week I signed up for a running program. It handed me a schedule. Wonder of wonders, I am fitting in the running. And it almost feels as if there is more time in my life, rather than less. Is there a lesson to be learned here? Is it time to admit that while our family doesn’t like schedules, we need to impose one on ourselves to ensure that we are happy and productive?
An further object lesson presents itself in the likes of Erin, who for years seemed as resistent to schedules as anyone in this family but but now as a self-sufficient self-motivated older teen has opted to impose on herself some pretty rigid scheduling. She doesn’t like being tightly scheduled, but she has discovered that it’s a necessary evil as she juggles in-class courses, independent study courses, provincial exam deadlines, dozens of assignments, endless sets of rehearsals and performances in various ensembles, exercise, learning endless NYO orchestra and quartet parts, eating and sleeping and other necessities.
I suppose it’s time for a family meeting.