Long time readers know that finding a good evening routine has been a work in progress since my now 8-year-old was born. At first it was about filling the long hours until my night owl child felt tired enough for bed. These days I am trying to figure out how to make all the puzzle pieces created by 4 kids fit together. Here is what we are currently doing.
Monday, the 8-year-old swims 5:30-6:30. P brings him, and I take the other 3 kids with me to pick him up. If my husband is home, he will go get him. If it is just me in the evening, I feed the 6-year-old and 4-year-old from 6-6:20, then we do the swim run (it is only 8 minutes away). I feed the 8-year-old upon return, a re-heated version of whatever the other kids had. (P feeds the baby at 5:45 pretty much every night). I tend to eat later.
Tuesday, the 8-year-old and 6-year-old have piano from 5:15-6:15, at the house (mercifully). I feed the 3 big kids and myself (plus husband if home) after.
Wednesday, the 4-year-old has art from 3:15-4:15. The 8-year-old has drama club until 5:15. I usually go get him, do a tiny bit of work after, then feed the kids and me (plus husband if home) at 6.
Thursday is swim for the 8-year-old again. See repeat of Monday. (The 4-year-old, incidentally, has ballet, but that is during the day, so it does not affect the evening routine).
Friday the 6-year-old has Lego Club until 4:45. I cover Fridays so generally I bring the other kids to go get him. Then we come home and all eat together when my husband gets back.
The question is when to fit in the other things that need to get done. The 8-year-old and 6-year-old need to practice the piano. They are not quite up to doing the 30 minutes most days I know they eventually should get to. Right now I am happy to get 10-15 minutes, 4 times per week.
Then there is homework. We had a bit of an incident last night when I checked what the 8-year-old had done. I know he is capable of doing a great job but this definitely needed some work. I think I need to start supervising this a lot more closely. I do not like the idea of supervising homework as I want my children to take ownership of their own learning, but it looks like this may be more of a process. It is one assignment a week (he gets it Monday, it is due on Friday), and will probably take about an hour total.
Both boys are supposed to be doing 15-20 minutes on Dreambox a few times (like 3) per week. The 6-year-old is also supposed to be doing a program called Raz Kids on reading and reading comprehension. I want the 8-year-old to be doing more reading in general, including some aloud to me so I can check thoroughness and comprehension.
I have started splitting baths/showers into two shifts. The older boys shower every other night and I give the baby and 4-year-old a bath together on the other night. The downside is that every night is bath night (well, unless I decide to skip it) but only dealing with 2 kids feels much more manageable than cleaning all 4.
It is difficult to do much active interaction with the older children while the 1-year-old is up. The good news is that he goes down pretty easy around 7:30. I usually give him a bottle around 7:15. Then I put him in his crib awake and he lets me leave the room without protest. The bad news is he has been waking up around 5 a.m. This morning it was 4:45. Blech. At least my husband is here this week so I tend to hand him over at 6:30 and go back to bed for 45 minutes.
In an ideal world I am getting the big kids their snacks at 8/8:15 and getting them up in their rooms for stories and teeth brushing by 8:30. The 4-year-old has lights out after her story (usually by 8:45). Then I read to the 6-year-old and put him in his room (with the sleeping baby) at 9. At some point the 8-year-old comes and chats with me while I am working or reading. I have no idea when he goes to bed. He still does not need much sleep. He can read in his room as long as he is quiet.
Anyway, no one individual child has a packed evening, but there are enough moving parts that I need to be supervising something much of the time. I know a lot of parents of older kids read this blog, as well as parents of bigger broods, so I would love to hear your suggestions for organizing the evenings to make sure everything gets done with a minimum of yelling.
In other news: Speaking of veteran parents, I am writing a Fast Company piece next week on time management tips from mega-families. If you have 5 or more kids and have a tip for keeping the trains running on time, I would love to hear it! As always, you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.
Photo: Wine can be part of an evening routine that works.