Not long ago, I had a conversation with some friends about how routine is one of the ways you show love to a child. Babies literally don’t know how to digest their food, so they certainly don’t know that they can choose when to get up in the morning, or what to eat, or that they can rely on anyone to be there for them, day after day. But you can show them these things, by providing them consistently, being a steady heartbeat presence in their lives. Put another way, having a routine teaches children that the world exists.
As we were discussing this, I started describing a routine you might have for a baby, that you would feed them dinner, and clean their face, and give them a bath, and sing them a song, and tuck them into bed, and then wake up with them in the morning, and—so on. I stopped at some point, because I realized that I wanted to keep listing these steps for some reason, but I figured it would get boring. I apologized for being mundane and repetitive. My sister-in-law looked kind of sad, and said, “Actually, I really liked listening to that. I found it soothing.”
Which, I realized, is exactly why I liked it too. There is still comfort in the idea of a guiding hand. And, in the absence of that, there is comfort in the actions that a guiding hand might take. The action itself is a part of the love. We can still feel that, even now.
Today I have to do something that is not a normal part of my routine, and I have pumped myself up for it by reminding myself that, when it’s done, I can slide right back into the ordinary things. I can write. I can exercise. I can walk the dog. I can watch another episode in my sudden-onset Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch, which will be even better because Oz finally showed up, and also because I will have accomplished something, and it will be done. I can eat dinner, and have evening tea, and get into bed before I’m quite sleepy, and Dave will fall asleep while I read, and then I’ll pet Paul, and turn out the light, and slide my arm under the pillow, and close my eyes.