The third part of my seemingly endless series will be the first entry that will not be poop-related. You're welcome.
I started the year with the hope that I would blog at least once a week this year. It was to be an act of spiritual discipline and prayer. Looking over my entries for the year I did... ok. There are pretty big gaps where I didn't write much at all. This, of course, points to one of my biggest weaknesses (if not THE biggest) which is my lack of discipline. Its nothing new. When I look back even to my junior and senior high days, I remember that I was smart but lazy and that sometimes you can get by on smart. Getting by often means being happy with a "B" when a little work could have earned an "A". It meant being happy to be on the team instead of doing the extra work to be a real athlete. It meant being happy to be in the band without doing the work to be a real musician. It also meant walking away from a thing or two when things got harder than I wanted to deal with.
One thing that has changed since the high school years is that I've discovered the joy of finishing things. There is certainly something about the feeling of accomplishment. Still, there's a difference between crossing the finish line and staggering across it. I tend to do the latter. It's the difference between a job well done and a job that's, well, done.
So what does that have to do with the boy? The week before Thanksgiving, the whole house was sick. Thomas' sickness seemed to have thrown off his sleeping schedule because he was back to waking up every couple of hours in the middle of the night. It was like he had regressed a few months and it was truly frustrating not to mention exhausting. Last week a book was recommended to us. The author suggested a couple of important things: one that we let him cry it out in the middle of the night. This had been suggested to us before and we had hoped that had avoided this. The second was that we create a routine for his naps throughout the day. So, we resolved that we had to endure a few rough nights to get things back to where we were sleeping through the night.
The first night was brutal. It was nearly three hours (from almost midnight to almost 3am) of pretty regular crying. And not just crying. Screaming, howling, "why do my evil parents hate me so much?" kind of crying. We resisted the urge to run in and save him, which would have been more for our comfort than his, and after a pretty agonizing couple of hours he passed out. The next day we informed the babysitter of the new sleep schedule. We began a new routine. Earlier bed time. More low key night time activities (he had been getting pretty hyper at night. We discovered that this is a result of fatigue. Who knew? Smartypants pediatrician, that's who.) The second night was bad, but not as bad. The third night was amazing. And he's been going down for his naps. He's started going down for bed with no fuss. He railed against all of this at first, but now he's sleeping better and more often, he's happier when he wakes, and he's dealing with well-rested parents in the morning.
Interesting that I can create a routine for someone else and not for myself. Despite all the testimonials I had heard, I have to say that even I am a little surprised by how the simple act of having a routine, and parents who at least for a week have been disciplined enough to keep to a the routine, has changed the boy's mood and behavior. He's cute when he's tired and hyper, but I'll take that loss to make sure that he's well rested and that he doesn't have sleep problems throughout his life like his dad does.
There's something kind of old fashioned about discipline. There's something that is seemingly very boring in the idea of routine. And yet anyone who achieves anything on a high level has these old fashioned, boring elements as a part of their lives. Athletes run drills, musicians play scales, actors rehearse. We tend to romanticize the ability to improvise in life. We like it when things come down to the wire. But a jazz musician knows their scales. I read a biography of John Coltrane last year and one of the things that foolishly caught me off guard was what a student of music theory he was. He was able to improvise the way he did because he had disciplined himself to do the seemingly little things well.
My life lacks discipline. It lacks routine. In the past, that has been one of the things that I have enjoyed about my life. I like the freedom of a flexible schedule and limited accountability. I pride myself on my ability to get by without structure or a plan. And yet there is always a nagging inside of me that says "this isn't nearly as good as it could have been if you would have just worked harder beforehand". I hate that voice.
So what could more routine look like in my life? Well, first and foremost it could mean my being a better husband and father. I have a routine about when I take out the garbage (right after "How I Met Your Mother, if you were wondering) but what about a dishes routine or a laundry routine. I'm sure my wife would love that. (See, I'm counting on the fact she's stopped reading my blog.) I have something of a routine about how I manage our finances. I know that could be tightened up. I certainly could be more disciplined about my health. I've secretly been patting myself on the back about the fact that I've lost weight this year with little (to no) exercise, but the truth of the matter is that I do the opposite of stress eating. When I'm stressed, I forget about food. That's probably not healthy either. Having an eating and exercise routine wouldn't be the worst thing. Professionally, I could certainly be more disciplined about my sermon prep. My office could use a little more structure. (That might be a bit of an understatement). I could always be more organized on the administrative end, but even on the relational end of my job, there could certainly be more routine. When do I visit shut ins? When do I check up on members who haven't been to worship in awhile? When I spend time with officers and staff? How do I balance denominational activities, community activities, and congregational activities?
And then personally... am I writing as often as I'd like? Am I praying as often as I should? Am I studying scripture for my own edification? Am I reading for pleasure as much as I read for work? Am I dating my wife enough? (again, counting on her not reading this!) All of these things are things that need to be scheduled. They need to become a part of a routine.
If having a routine can turn a hyperactive, sleep deprived, moody gremlin (no exaggeration) into a mild mannered, 12 hour sleeping, cuddly little angel (slight exaggeration), then imagine what it can do for a well meaning, but lazy slacker who's tired of getting by on doing the bare minimum. Time to add some pieces of flare. ("Office Space" anyone?)