I've been thinking a lot about the idea of ritual. Children thrive on routine, but that word never conveys what a routine actually accomplishes. Routine suggests control, no real reason or known purpose.
Instead I've focused on the idea of rhythm. Rhythm means that my children and I can mark the passage of time in ways that help us to appreciate how the little pieces of our lives add up to the big mystery.
Rhythm is a better word for us. We have natural rhythms that help my girls find their way in a confusing life. Since they are new to this, I want to give them something that helps them find meaning in the whys of every day.
Honestly, I'm not great at this. I've been trained to watch the clock and to measure my own accomplishments by what it says. I have a hard time being patient enough to let rhythm in.
Last night my 4 year old snuck into the living room where I was working. The concept of work is strange to her. She can't read yet, so she stares at my documents until her eyes lose focus. For her, my real work is the business of explanation and the business of comfort.
We'd been playing the Big Bad Wolf game earlier and for anyone with experience with children, games are never just games. In the stillness of bedtime, she'd spooked herself thinking about wolves.
So I did what eases my own fear. I talked about big things. I talked about the new moon, and what gives the moon its light. We walked outside and watched our frosty breath as we tried to find the moon. It wasn't in a good place to see from our back yard, so we watched the stars instead. She loves the three stars in Ursa Major's tail, and so we talked about them. She calls them the three bears.
Stars are above our heads and below our feet and we can sleep dreaming of them.