The Role of Repetition

by in Family and Faith


Monday monotony – that’s my day.

That’s most days actually. Coffee in the morning, vroom-vroom playing, snacking, eating, cooking, cleaning, e-mail checking, block-building, sleeping (if I’m lucky). Most days are marked by ho-hum activity.

My personality has a bi-polar relationship with this monotony.

On the one hand, I love repetition. It provides structure to my days. I naturally manufacture routine even when one isn’t mandated. I construct a daily a to-do list. My first response to spontaneity is nearly always no.

On the other hand, I fidget after three identical days. I need something different to look forward to. I need people who persistently rock the boat of my routine. Lucky for me, I married someone similar, but with a steep slant toward spontaneity. And I have a toddler. Need I say more?

On days like today – days when the gray sky spits snow for the seemingly sixtieth day in a row – I view the monotonous repetition as pure annoyance. Change feels vital. I long for the day to just end, for the seasons to shift, for a jet plane headed in any other direction.

But the truth is, repetition plays a key role.

Without repetition, nothing can be different. There’s no spontaneity without structure. There’s no vacation without work. There’s no anticipation without predictability.

Repetition is beneficial for learning, for increased productivity and even for humor.

Bronson loves to be chased. He’s delighted if I run around the table and chairs and chase him in and out of his room; but if I really want to make him laugh, I do the same thing two or three times. A pattern emerges, and he thinks he knows what’s next. But then I switch it up. I capture him in an unexpected place, and his giggles overflow. He’s in stitches.

It’s a widespread theory on humor: set a pattern and then switch it slightly. We innately find this funny.

But there would be no laughter without the repetition. It’s the stage setter. Repetition lays the framework for learning and being productive. It makes our lives easier. Without it things wouldn’t be funny or extraordinary. Repetition creates the contrast that makes life interesting.

Of course, for this to be true, we also have to breakup the repeat.

Hey God, how about some sun? It’d put me in stitches.

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