In the comments of my last post, Jennifer asked if the routine that Veda and I have is something that we cultivated or if it just naturally emerged. And I have to say that it was a little bit of both. I've been amazed at how much Veda leads as she gets ready for new phases or new developments. I don't worry about whether or not she's ready for whatever next step the "baby books" say is coming. She instinctively shifts and changes when the time is right for her. For example: around 13 months she naturally gave up bottles during the day, one by one, until they were all eliminated. There was no crying. No withholding. No grasping. Around 8 months she miraculously started sleeping through the night. (I really wish this had been sooner, but looking back, I know now that I should have just relaxed and followed her lead. She'd sleep when her body and mind said it was ok.) In the same way she also helps me with knowing what our schedule should be. So I watch what she naturally does during the day and try to honor that. Naps, for instance. She needs two naps a day. One hour each. I'd rather her take one big afternoon nap so I could work, but it's really not up to me. She does better with two short ones.
I watch when she gets hungry and we schedule big meals around that. So meals are a big breakfast around 8. Lunch between 11:30 and noon. And dinner around 5:30. We also have a regular snack time in the afternoon where we stuff ourselves full of fruits and cheese and pickles and such.
The time she goes to bed was up to her too. She just gets tired around 7. So bedtime is right around then. We stay up later if we're out with friends. And sometimes go to bed even earlier if she's had a really active day.
I did consciously try to start the bedtime routine of bath, two books and prayer. And parts of it didn't come together at first, but then it naturally fell into place over time. When she was tiny she couldn't make it through two books. And she didn't care about the prayer. But now we pick out two books and read them slowly. We turn down the lights and say our prayer. Then we rock and cuddle for a few minutes and she goes to sleep happy.
For us, routine is important because I think it gives both of us something to rely on. And just knowing what's coming next just feels good. We can wiggle around a bit in our schedule if necessary, but I think the overall structure is important to help her feel grounded and secure.
There is one parenting book that I read that I absolutely LOVE. It's called Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids and it sits by my bedside as a little guidebook. The authors devote a chapter or two to routine. And it just makes total sense. One of the things they suggest (especially for parents with radically different schedules day to day) is to foreshadow what will happen the next day for children. Because children have a different or no sense of time, big fluctuations in schedule can make them anxious or off-balance. Nervous because they don't know what to expect next. So telling them what's going to happen: "Tomorrow we are going drop you off at school in the blue car. And then grandma will pick you up and you guys are going to play until dinner time. Then I'll come get you and we'll make stir fry together"...etc) helps them feel like they have a handle on things. They know how the day is going to shake down, and it helps them feel secure and well taken care of.
So even though Veda and I don't normally have radically changing schedules, I still like to tell her at bedtime what we are planning on doing the next day. ("Tomorrow we are going to go swimming at the Y!" or "In the afternoon we're going to the park to meet friends."...) I know she's only 14 months and can't understand fully. But I do think that it helps to establish this early. It's more for me, really. So I get in the habit of making her feel like she's got a handle on what's going on and remember to include her in planning.
That's a long answer to your question, Jennifer. Sorry about that! But I think that it's so important. At least for our little family. And it's part of the mindful parenting that I mentioned before. :)