The Practice

I don’t remember what they were talking about tonight, but the conversation ended with Jeff asking Zach, “Where did we go last summer?”

“Toah Nipi?” Zach wondered.

Jeff and I looked at each other in disbelief.  We were looking for Zach to say China – the month-long, multi-thousand-dollar, life-changing trip we took last August.  Instead, what Zach remembered was what we do every summer, the week-long, several hundred dollar trip to the camp associated with Jeff’s ministry.  That’s the trip that will matter to Zach as he gets older because it gives shape to his experience of childhood.

It’s predictable.  We go every summer with Debbie, Tom, and their kids.  The boys hike and canoe and climb the rock wall.  They go to Kimball’s for ice cream and listen to their parents play cards after the kids are in bed.  Toah Nipi is predictable and the boys feel safe there.

It  matters. Going to Toah Nipi matters; it must, or their parents wouldn’t make sure it happens every year. What matters is what we do daily, weekly, yearly.  Our children’s hearts and minds are shaped by the rhythms we establish if for no other reason than that those rhythms teach the boys what we care enough about to do regularly.

They are shaped by the rhythms more than the exceptions to those rhythms.  The big trip – to China or Disney World – doesn’t matter nearly as much as the weekly Saturday morning bike ride.  Neither do the occasional times you lose your cool compare to the nightly prayer you utter each night before bed.  Rhythms matter.

One of the things homeschool has afforded us is more space to build in rhythms that reflect what we say we care about.  But things are still more chaotic than they should be. I was reminded of this again when reading Simplicity Parenting, which was the impetus for The Purge.

If you live in a house where more twenty people stay overnight every month, if you have never met some of those people until they arrive, if your dad works evenings and weekends and travels a fair amount, if your mom’s work schedule is irregular, and even if you have none of these irregulars, you need rhythms that serve as anchors.

Since we already have The Purge, I’ll call these rhythms The Practice, and tomorrow I’ll share a few of them from the book and few from our house.  In the meantime, write in with a practice from your house.  What did your parents tell you mattered by the things they did regularly?  What do you tell your children matters because it’s one of the non-negotiables in your daily lives?

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  • I had a lot of irregularity in my childhood — my mother was unstable (we know now that she is borderline manic/depressive), my dad died suddenly when I was ten, and I became very responsible very early. So I put a huge amount of effort into creating reliable routines for our kids, in order to give them some stability and freedom in childhood that I missed out on. So far, we all like it, and it's helping me to heal too. 🙂

    Routines in our house include lots of predictable daily rhythms — meals and activity, family dinner most nights, bathtime every evening, regular bedtimes. Most of these include honoring each person's particular requests when possible (color of plate at breakfast, toast cut into triangles or squares?, things like that). We have a lot of seasonal and holiday traditions — visiting a friend's lake house for vacation every year, celebrating "unbirthdays" (half-birthdays) for each family member, frequent biking trips to our local ice cream shop in the summer, plus a host of Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/birthday traditions. I'll stop writing now, and I can't wait to hear about your practices!

    • tedelschick

      Thanks for sharing this, Anne. Your wisdom came at a high price, but your voice is clearly wise.

  • This is such a great thing to think about. There were lots of things in childhood that I could mention … one was a weekly family night my parents called a "sabbath," which was generally on Saturday evening after dinner. There was a family devotions component to that when we sang together and read from the Bible.

    As an adult when I lived in community for a few years, we would regularly go around the table at dinner and everyone would very briefly share something about that day that they were thankful for; lots of seemingly small things like a good conversation during the day, having been able to take a walk after work, etc. I really liked that. I still try to have that practice at the end of the day, although it's harder without a communal setting to support it.