The idea of a family rhythm is a popular one among natural leaning parents, and it has been a challenging one for me. It has shifted in my mind from an ideal, to an elusive and obnoxious myth, to something I can finally embrace in my own way. When I was preparing for parenthood, I read a number of books and articles that painted a seasonal and daily rhythm as the mainstays of peaceful family life, and I pictured myself cultivating all manner of delightful traditions that my children could feel grounded in. Our future home, I envisioned as something out of an issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I couldn’t wait to create our rhythm.
My daughter finally came, and I gave myself some grace in her first year when I struggled to get it together for the various holidays that came and went. “She’s only a baby,” I told myself. “She won’t remember this Christmas/Fourth of July/Halloween well. Next year I’ll really do something special!” The beautiful chaos of parenting made it difficult to plan what I was going to cook for dinner on any given night, much less what special foods, decorations, and activities we would use to mark the next holiday on the calendar.
To complicate matters further, we had moved to a place where the weather was virtually the same year round, and had established ourselves as a non-religious family. “Next year” came, and not only did it feel very unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas when it was 80 degrees and sunny, but as parents our hearts weren’t in the religious traditions we had grown up with either. I had this beautiful vision of creating traditions for my daughter, now an active and curious toddler, and yet every holiday that came and went just added to the sense that I was hopeless in the seasonal rhythm department.
The idea of a daily rhythm, too, began to feel like a total joke, at least where our household was concerned. I thrived on a consistent routine, and it seemed to work well for my daughter, too, but I kept reading idealized, poetic descriptions of “daily rhythm” (said in the peaceful, calming voice of an enlightened earth mother) that insisted that a rhythm was not a routine. I started to roll my eyes every time I saw the r word, as it seemed to mock me with its unattainable beauty and perfection.
I don’t have a success story to share when it comes to holidays yet. I’m still pretty lousy at remembering them far enough in advance to make them particularly special. Instead of beating myself up, however, I’m creating Pinterest boards for “next year” after every holiday I drop the ball on. So that’s something. I’m also making peace with the fact that not everything I admire is my strength. My house may not look anything like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens around the holidays (or really ever) but I love to create things in the kitchen with my daughter and I’ll sit down and bring books to life with her all day long.
What I did realize was that we didn’t need a Summer, Spring, Winter, and Fall, or even formal holidays to enjoy a seasonal rhythm. As we stopped to enjoy the flame trees in their prime, or to pick and eat some of the first mangoes of the season, it occurred to me that I didn’t need to cultivate a seasonal rhythm. I had spent so much energy on trying to create one in our home when in reality, the rhythm of life was and is all around us. It’s so much bigger and more profound than anything we can contain within the walls of our house, and all we have to do is slow down to enjoy it.
The daily rhythm, too, requires far less cultivating than I had come to believe. I’d made it so big and magical, when really all it requires is living life with my family. Sure, there’s a difference between a rigid schedule and a flow to daily life that shifts to meet the needs of parents and children, but our “routine” is our rhythm. It’s the way we go about our life, and it lends a sense of consistency to our days while shifting and changing with us as we and our needs change. There’s nothing magical about it, really, and that’s okay. Life doesn’t always have to be magical. Sometimes we just ride the waves and see where that takes us. There’s a beautiful rhythm to that when you really stop and think about it.