The Pattern and Flow of Habits

Things slip into being normal without us quite realizing it. This is neutral, because both good and bad things can slip into place.

The other day I was discussing homework with Patch because he needs to hustle to bring some grades up before the end of the term on Friday. We talked about how he likes to take a break and relax right after school, but that this often leads to us getting distracted. Then we get to bedtime without the homework done. “We used to connect homework to dinner time, but we don’t really do dinner anymore.” He was so matter of fact as he said it. And I felt an echo of guilt for the family dinners we haven’t had in years. Instead we tend to congregate in the kitchen, each fixing our own single serving of food from the available groceries. We don’t often have all of us together, but it is frequent for two or three of us to be there chatting while we fix and then eat our food. If the point of family dinner is connection, well we’ve found some different formats for that. Yet I’m all too aware that there are social graces and cooking skills that would be better practiced with scheduled family dinners. And we could have homework time after dinner the way we used to do.

This morning Howard and I watched a movie as soon as the two youngest were out the door to school. It was a movie with more swearing in it than I’m comfortable showing to my kids. It also wasn’t likely to interest them since so much of the film had to do with banking rather than explosions. It used to be that we’d watch this sort of movie after the kids were in bed for the night. These days the kids go to bed at pretty much the same times that we do, though I’m currently working to change the habit for the youngest two into an earlier bedtime. In theory, now that the kids are older, I don’t need the off-duty down time as much as I used to do. After all, I’m not doing hands on care for them anymore. They manage their own things, their own dinners. Sort of. Except when they don’t and they flop next to me and want me to do things for them because the things are haaaard. Yes. Adulting is hard and I get why my teenagers want to flop and let me do it for them. Particularly the ones who aren’t actually adults yet. So I still end my days longing for some off duty time, and usually not getting it. Which is why Howard and I have moved some of our dates into the middle of work hours. I feel a little guilty about that, but Howard and I need some child-free time somewhere.

Howard sat with our cat in his lap, gently stroking her fur. “We need to make her a vet appointment for a check up.” I agreed. She seems perfectly healthy, but she is getting up there in years and we want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to keep her in good health. Somewhere in the years we slid from no pets, to having an outdoor cat, to having an indoor cat. We moved from not being willing to spend much on upkeep to being willing to pay significant sums to keep her in good health.

The patterns of our lives drift, carried by the currents of our choices. They changed when Link went to partially homeschooled. They changed again when he dropped out completely and studied for the GED instead. They changed when Gleek developed a passionate interest in rollerblading multiple times per week. They changed when Patch picked up cello and again when he put it down. They change every time Kiki comes home from college and every time she goes back. Sometimes I want to make a deliberate pattern change and it is like walking upstream against a strong current. I end up bedraggled and exhausted, not very far from where I started. Other times a change just falls into the flow of other things effortlessly. I’m working to recognize when changes aren’t worth fighting the current, when they are, and how to design a change so that it goes with the flow instead of against it.

For now, I need to put aside these thoughts and dive into the creative flow necessary for Planet Mercenary writing and editing.