Sometimes it's good for established routines to go through a period of disruption. This allows for some reflection to see if the current patterns are in need of an update. One of the many things that Reiko and I have tried to maintain over the last three years is a repeating series of steps for the boy to learn and follow. Some of these are to adopt lifelong rules, such as washing hands before -- and sometimes after -- a meal, while others are simply processes that we have all learned to be effective for daily activities, like getting ready for bed. As the family is staying in Gifu with Reiko's parents, just about every routine is being disrupted as a result of being in a different house with a larger group of people to create distractions. After getting the boy into bed tonight, both Reiko and I agree that the various regimens that we've all become accustomed to are desperately missed. Fortunately we return home tomorrow afternoon.
Friends and colleagues have told me that small children need to have a schedule that gets stuck to in order to maintain some semblance of sanity at home. Having a toddler of my own now, I can corroborate this tidbit of wisdom as being an effective means to ensure teeth are brushed, showers are taken, clothes are changed, and toys are (somewhat) put away. The routines have become second nature enough that when I forget a step, the boy will remind me via some sort of angry demand. It's an interesting thing to see in practice. However, as February draws ever closer, we know there's going to be another period of adaptation required for new routines and stricter schedules. Kindergarten begins in just a handful of weeks, which means less sleeping in and more emphasis on timeliness.
As it stands, we've been making incremental changes over the last couple of weeks. We wake up slightly earlier and aim to have breakfast done by 8:00am so that teeth can be cleaned and clothes changed half an hour later. He will need to be at school by 9:00am and, if it's my day to take him, that means walking1 20 minutes along "Circle Road", a dedicated pedestrian path that cuts through the four local neighbourhoods and allows a person easy access to every school in the area without ever needing to cross a road2. It's a good walking distance for a toddler, and a decent warm-up for me.
Very few habits are ever static and it's important to ensure they're updated as conditions change. That said, having everything thrown out of whack when visiting family can help us identify what parts of a routine should stick around.
I don't want my kid to expect a ride to school every day. He has two legs and they work. He should learn to walk to places he wants to go to. His mother, however, would rather drive even if the destination is 100m from the house.
When people do need to cross a road, the pedestrian path becomes a bridge. This ensures that young children walking to school or elsewhere do not need to contend with the fast-moving cars that ignore the 40kph speed limit signs painted on every road.