Sunday, May 16, 2010

The 'R' word

I set my alarm to wake up at 6:30 every morning. Erm, every weekday morning. I hit snooze until about 7:15, grunt something about waking up at the husband, get out of bed, stumble through to the kitchen, flick on the kettle and totter off to the bathroom. I have a piddle, wash my face, brush my teeth and traipse back into the bedroom where I grumble out another half-assed wake-up call and climb back into bed to doze until Shane brings me coffee. The dear husband plods through his morning routine in much the same way I do, fumbling, stumbling, grunting and muttering. We're not morning people. Obviously.

The thing with waking up is that you have to do it at least once a day (the second time is usually better). Much like you have to attend to personal hygiene, eat a couple of meals and go to sleep again before starting it all over. You do these things at every age of your life, irrespective of whether you are a student who can sleep through morning lectures, a working person who has to fit it in around your daily grind, or a pensioner with your social calender wired around your eat / sleep / clean routine. So why is it such a big deal to get your babies into the swing of it when they're little?

Ask any mother's group about baby routines and they generally split into two extreme factions. On the one hand, you have the attachment parenting every-child-is-an-individual-and-should-be-left-to-figure-it-out-on-their-own crowd, and on the other, the militant mom let-them-cry-it-never-did-me-any-harm brigade. And somewhere in the middle is hiding-under-a-table-and-wishing-I'd-kept-my-big-mouth-shut me. And maybe a few others.

I have a problem with both extreme viewpoints. A baby needs a certain amount of food, sleep and awake time in any 24 hour period. No one disputes that, it's a fact. So am I wrong in wanting to encourage my little person to have his food and awake time when I have mine? Yes, he's an individual and he certainly will be allowed to develop his own personality (within moral boundaries). But he is not going to be doing that if he's crying from hunger or exhaustion is he? Survival instinct is pretty strong in all of us, we take care of our basic needs first. If I can anticipate his needs for nourishment and rest by setting a routine, doesn't that give him more time to just be him without having to wail for me to feed him or put him to bed? And if he is sleeping at night and allowing me to get my necessary sleep, doesn't that mean I'll be better equipped to help him learn about himself during the day? I don't think I'm the only person in the world that finds their ability to function normally impaired by hunger or sleep deprivation.

Yes, I hear you some of you saying, yes! Get that routine going, if he doesn't eat at lunch he can wait for dinner and if he cries himself to sleep because he's hungry well that's fine, next time he'll learn to eat at mealtimes. Um, no thanks. I didn't buy into this whole motherhood jol to go to war with my child. Of course I want to get some sleep. Of course I want him to know night from day. But I'm not going to bully him into it. I don't eat three meals a day at the stroke of food o'clock. I don't drop everything to get in the shower because it's that time of the day, and I certainly don't cut short my blogging time because I've just stifled another yawn. The difference is that I already know that I need to eat enough during the day to prevent myself waking up hungry at 3am and that if I sleep all day I'm not going to sleep at night. I understand action and consequence, and I have only myself to blame if I'm tired or hungry or wide awake at 2am. My little boy doesn't know that yet, and he's certainly not old enough to listen to reason. And until he is, isn't it a little bit harsh to be thinking it's his own fault he's not content?

So we're working to a plan. One that makes sure he's getting enough to eat, enough time awake and enough time asleep. One where I can give the best of myself to him during the time I am at my best. One where the only reason he cries is because he's sick. And since he hasn't really been sick, for now, we're a happy family. Just for heaven's sake don't call it routine - it's a dirty word in mommyland.

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