#2: Maintain Rituals From Home

“Hey, Mom, what are we having for dinner tonight?”

Zach asked this at eight in the morning.  He’s always been on the anxious side, and he needs to line out the whole day as soon as possible. Before I’ve finished the breakfast dishes, he wants to know what’s for dinner.

“What night is it?” I ask in return.


“So what are we having?”

“Arroz con pollo?”

“Right, buddy.”

At home the answer would have been different, but while we’re here in Costa Rica for three months, Saturday night is chicken and rice night.

I hate having the same thing every week.  I want to decide at three that I’m in the mood for cerviche.  But last year I read Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, and I was struck by how chaotic our lives were in contrast to the book’s vision of family. Much of our chaos can’t be changed, or we don’t want to change.  Which makes predictable rhythms or practices all the more important for our children.  After reading the book, we instituted a weekly eating schedule.  We tweaked it a bit when we got here, but having experienced the benefits of the schedule when we were home, we wouldn’t think of going without one while we are on an extended trip. The schedule is predictable, and that predictability helps the kids feel safe when so much else is uncertain and unknown.

Dinner schedules are just one example of the rhythms that shape the hearts and minds of my children. This is true if for no other reason than that those rhythms teach them what we care enough about to do regularly.

And the truth is that 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.  They serve as anchors, and perhaps especially so when you travel.  Which is why they made my list of the top 10 tips for traveling with children.

Here are a few of the daily and weekly rhythms that we transported with us from home, each tweaked a bit to fit our life here:

1.  Nightly Prayers. If we don’t pray for the boys at night, they holler, “We can’t sleep without prayer!”  Jeff prays that God would help them sleep.  I pray the priestly blessing over all three of them.  It’s the blessing that Aaron prayed over the Israelites.

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.


I add All the days of your life to the end.  It’s the boys favorite part of the prayer.  Each night, they shout out that last line in unison with me.

2. Family Devotions. We meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning for family devotions.  We do Sorry, Thank You, Please prayers and read the Bible.  I don’t know that the kids particularly like this rhythm, or rely on its predictability as an anchor in their lives.  But it certainly lets them know what we think is important.

3. Sabbath. Every Friday night, we butcher the Hebrew prayers; I light the Sabbath candles; we bless and drink the wine; we break and eat bread (challah is hard to come by in Costa Rica); and then we eat pizza.  That last bit is not part of the ancient tradition, but I think that if the Rabbis had known about pizza back then, it would have been.

You may have noticed that all of the rhythms we brought with us to Costa Rica, except for the dinner rotation, revolve around prayer of some kind.  If our kids are ever asked, “Based on what your parents did regularly with you, what would you say they believed,” they would have to say, “I guess they thought we needed a whole lotta prayer.”

And they would be right.