I love me a good routine, and now that the kids have started going back to school, they have their own morning shuffle. This morning I opened the bedroom door to a dressed kindergartner who gave me a one-armed sweep showing off his achievement and a sly grin. “I’m first to be ready for school,” he declared.
He was in a good mood, one of those times when the morning To-Dos were infused with laughter and ease — on his end at least; less so for his sister, who needed a few minutes to shake off the night. It was one of those mornings when you just want to grab them and say, “Forget about school, stay here and hug me; I’ll make pancakes.”
It feels easier to recognize when it’s not a normal morning, when those pinpricks of a special sheen on moments shine through the routine. But I’ve tried hard to tune into those, especially last year. What break in normal should I pay attention to and savor? What can I cut out?
I’ve been lucky to be able to soak in motherhood, but it’s been supported by happenstance. I’m an only child, and when my dad died, the idea of my mom being alone in the town my dad retired in (still in the state, but on the order of six hours away) didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me or my mom. She tried to go home to her parents, which was on the order of 8,000 miles and a few plane rides away. However, once I got married, the lure back to me was strong. She wanted to soak up the next stages of life with me, but more, I was her normal.
She tells me often that she’s surprised I had kids as quickly as I did, thinking I’d just meander around life as I had done before. Blessed are those who know their path as an itty-bitty person, those mythical people who pick up an idea of what they want to be or who they want to become right out of the gate. She’s right; that was not at all how I approached it. I didn’t actively think through What to Be as An Adult. I just wanted to move forward.
What I did have, and didn’t give her a sense of, was a more sincere desire in me for the stability of a routine. Unfortunately, many times I meandered my way toward building those without giving too much thought to whether they were the right ones for me. One foot in front of the other may be a millennial’s way forward when we can’t see clear outcomes; we might just take what’s in front of us now.
In the break of 2020, I could only see how different routines both constricted and freed me. I was forced to be present. During our lockdown, life seemed to stay repetitive, and yet kept shifting with small quakes that could drastically call for change. We collectively had to pick apart our routines to integrate a new normal, hoping that we’d get back to some semblance of what our lives were like before.
But it hasn’t returned to “normal,” and it might be in quiet ways that there is a fight against that return. How many people are opting out in ways that aren’t as earth-shattering as quitting a job, but are as simple as using the Good Plates on a regular Tuesday? Or debating why exactly we are holding back on drinking the Good Wine. Let’s make those pancakes on a school day.
Maybe, for a good life, the good times can be now, if we choose them.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at [email protected] To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.