This morning we had our first school day breakfast meltdown: "No, Dad. I don't want yogurt or Bircher muësli. I want pancakes! Why can't I have pancakes? We have some in the freezer."
I was getting dressed as I listened to all of this begin to go down. Why no pancakes? Good question, I thought to myself. Pancakes are delicious. We had them for breakfast on Sunday, and there are indeed some in the freezer. But that's the thing. They are in the freezer and not ready to eat. And more than that, we don't have pancakes for breakfast on weekdays.
I cheered silently for Marc as I listened to him stay firm and steady. He said to Wyatt, "I hear you. You want pancakes. You really want pancakes. And I totally get that they would taste really good. But it is a school day, and we are not having them. You may have yogurt or Bircher muësli. I'll put both in your bowl so you can choose."
As Marc returned from carrying breakfast to the table, I joined him and Wyatt in the kitchen. Wyatt was wailing on the floor, and it looked like there was a decent chance that he wasn't going to touch his breakfast before we had to leave for school. But Marc and I stayed calm, relatively unruffled, and pretty empathetic (for 7:00 am on a school day) because we were prepared for this flare-up. We consciously do things the same way every day with Wyatt. Keeping a strong rhythm (or routine) makes it very easy for us to spot when something is off-balance, and it gives us the confidence to stay firm and on track when big emotions overwhelm our little kid. This morning, we didn't know what Wyatt's "sads" were about, but we could tell they definitely weren't about the pancakes.
Our family would be lost without a daily rhythm, and this morning, I was so unbelievably thankful for Christina Perez, Wyatt's teacher and our parent coach, for helping us to establish ours. I remember, when Wyatt was much younger, how we struggled with the feeling of losing our autonomy and independence once we tied ourselves to a "schedule." But immersing ourselves in a daily rhythm was one of the smartest things we ever did as parents because we all know what's coming next and roughly when it will happen. It just makes everything so much easier. On a Sunday, for example, Wyatt (with less and less assistance) gets up, gets dressed, makes his bed, and brushes his teeth. There's a little time for him to play while Marc or I prepare breakfast. After breakfast, we clean up, and then there's time to play or have an adventure, and a midmorning snack. Lunch happens around 12-12:30 pm. After lunch, if we eat at home, there's a short period of quiet time, and then there is more free time until snack around 3:00 pm. Dinner happens around 5-5:30 pm, and then we slide into Wyatt's bedtime routine.
By now, we are so used to this routine, that when we deviate from it occasionally, we all recognize the change as something special, and it's very easy to get right back on track.
Wyatt eventually ate his yogurt and Bircher muësli for breakfast, and we confirmed it wasn't about the pancakes when we learned that he wasn't excited to go to school this morning. We were 7 minutes late leaving the house, but that's a pretty good recovery considering our original 20-minute delay to the start of breakfast.
Finding freedom through routine sounds crazy, but that's where we are right now. And thank goodness for all of that.