It wasn't until I tried to fix my son's raggedy bear last week, that I realized just how much he hates change.
No exaggeration, he has complained about the state of that bear for months - maybe years. "Look Mama! Harry has owies!" He exclaims, pointing to Harry's open hands and feet, where the fur has been chewed apart to reveal the lining of Harry's limbs.
I thought fixing the bear would solve several problems in one go. Matthew could enjoy his bear again; I would feel like a better mother for not allowing Harry to look like Freddy Kruegger's bear; Harry could even go out in public again.
But when I saw his reaction last week, I understood: he never really wanted the bear fixed at all. He liked him just the way he was - all open wounds and tatty arms and legs. His grumbling was all just part of his enjoyment of the bear.
And now it's clear to me - Matthew is very, very fond of his routines. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are eaten at the table, in the same spot. His bedtime ritual is always the same - pajamas, brush teeth, read story, milk, lights off. Thursday is the day he goes to Luke's house. Tuesday is the day Grandma comes to visit. His sippy cup has the blue lid, his brother's has the green - don't dare ever get them mixed up.
It's all about routine.
And at the same time, I had another awakening - it's not just him that's dependent on his daily rituals - I am too.
As much as I like to think of myself as this adventurous, up-for-anything, move-countries-at-the-drop-of-a-hat type person, I guess I'm not any more.
I need things to fall into place. I need the reassurance, the speed, the safety of everything happening the way it's supposed to.
When I was young, it didn't matter if things changed or got canceled at the last minute - I could simply pick myself up and adapt to the situation.
Now, when my routines get disrupted, everything gets upset. It's like fifty ten foot dominoes all toppling down around me. Or, at least, that's what it feels like.
When my work is canceled, for instance, it's as though all the intricate things that are hanging in balance to make work happen - childcare, study time, practicum hours, money - all come crashing down.
An upset routine = major stress.
I'm thirty one. And I hate to admit it, but I like my routine. I like my coffee in the morning. I like knowing which days I work and which days the kids have childcare. I like that Lost is on every Tuesday night. These small patterns keep me grounded.
Perhaps when, one day, life isn't pulling me in thirty directions at once, I'll be able to handle the sporadic changes life tosses at me. But for now, I'm definitely a creature of habit.