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August 3, 2021

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Don't mess with my routine

A mother's musings

I am a creature of routine. I cannot tell if I have always been this way or if I were driven to it by having children.

I find my children thrive in routine - regular meal times, set bedtimes, a structured pattern to the rest and play of their day.  My own children are so driven by routine that even on vacation, far from home, my daughter will ask "Where will we have quiet time after lunch today, Mommy?"

If my two-year-old doesn't nap, my eye starts twitching. And if we don't go to the library on Tuesdays, then the whole day is off-kilter.  

I don't deal well with changes in my structured routine.

So when this structured mother (me) comes in contact with a "less structured" mother, something starts to brew.

I like to refer to these less structured types as "unstructured" - the day has no plan; it's ten in the morning and they still haven't had breakfast yet; or they are always the last to arrive, and are completely unfussed about any of it.

They have the gift of spontaneity, where their day is made up of wherever the wind takes them.

Just hearing about their day ("We slept in until 9:30 this morning!") makes me start to panic inwardly.

I've had my fair share of these interactions: I've invited them over for a play date, only to discover they never leave. Or they arrive an hour after the play date started.

I might be all smiles and gracious on the outside, but internally, I'm pulling my hair out, because their mere presence seems to totally wreck my routine.   

But I need to stop here and declare that I need these people in my life.

If I never knew darkness, then I wouldn't appreciate the light.  Now, I'm not inferring that those unstructured types are from the "dark side" (although it might feel that way sometimes). It's more that - like ying and yang - we need each other.

A break in the routine can be like a ray of sunshine bursting through dark clouds. I'm so routine-driven that I find myself saying no to good things, like soccer camp or a pool party, simply because it doesn't fit into my set routine. Internally, I'm thinking "My girls can't do soccer camp - it's from 4-7 p.m. - that's over dinner time!" or "Sorry - can't come to your pool party because my toddler naps from 1-3 p.m.")

But when I do get pushed into breaking my normal routine and saying yes to new adventures, I have a lot of fun (and so do the kids).

So I'm discovering the relationship between my "structured" self and my "unstructured" friends can be mutually beneficial.

Perhaps having a little structure introduced to their lives is beneficial: the kids get fed at set times, rather than whenever they're hungry. Or you have a reason for saying no to going swimming, because you only have twenty minutes until you need to leave. 

Then your unstructured friend pulls out ice pops at 11 a.m., and everyone has a gloriously spontaneous snack. The colorful smears across all the children's faces warms your heart (despite your rule about no snacks or sugar before lunch).

A spontaneous "unstructured" person encourages me to loosen up and stop trying to micromanage everything.

I challenge you - as I challenge myself - to engage with someone "opposite" to you; the outcome could surprise you.

Liz Gordon-Hancock, daughter of Bob and Deb Beer, graduated from BHS in 2000. She attended Ohio Northern University, and received her bachelor's in English Literature in 2004.

As part of her studies, she spent her junior year in Wales, United Kingdom, at the University of Wales, Lampeter, where she met her future husband, Robert Gordon-Hancock.

After graduation, she married and moved to London, England. She could hear Big Ben chime the top of the hour from their studio apartment. She commuted on a red, double-decker bus, crossing the River Thames, every weekday for work.

But London was not ideal for raising children, so the Gordon-Hancocks bought a house in Witham, Essex, where they had two children (under free, national healthcare).

After 10 years in the UK, the Gordon-Hancocks moved back to Bluffton to raise their kids in small-town America. They now have three children, Alenah (age 7), Isla (age 6) and Elliot (age 2).