Many people have obsessive tendencies in one or more areas of their lives. Some people clean their houses to the point of madness. For others, it's health food or exercise that brings out their inner Gollum, or it's checking the door is locked and the coffee pot is off twenty-three times before leaving the house. For me, it's The Schedule. I am a very routine-oriented person, and according to my mother, have been from birth. My morning routine, both pre-child and now is carefully designed so I can do it by rote and not have to fully wake up until after I've gotten downstairs and had coffee. Having routine in my bones served me well when I worked in child care and then as a first grade teacher. Children thrive on routine. They, like me, find comfort in knowing what to expect. While I do like spontaneity, I always come back to The Schedule. As you might guess then, Jack has a nice, predictable schedule when it comes to sleeping and eating. He wakes up around seven o'clock, eats lunch at noon, naps at one and is asleep by eight in the evening. At least, that's how it was going until a couple of months ago when Jack decided that sometimes he would start rubbing his eyes and yawning at eleven o'clock - two hours before nap time. Other times, he refused to nap until nodding off at three or four, in his car seat or stroller. And some days, god have mercy on us, he didn't nap at all. All of this really threw a wrench into The Schedule. I struggled to maintain it. Then, I fumbled with finding a new "The Schedule" that would work with Jack's nap antics. All of this was a great failure and lead to much frustration on my part. Kids need The Schedule! Why was my child suddenly bucking it? Surely, I just had to find the right schedule and he would follow it again, right?
I was in the midst of all of this nap chaos last Thursday. I laid down with Jack for an agonizing hour at his "normal nap time," most of which he spent flailing and talking gleefully to himself with not-so-brief intermissions to the potty no less than four times. During one of the potty interludes, he attempted to flush literally half a roll of paper, still attached to the roll, down the toilet. I caught it before the bathroom flooded and ended up fishing the massive papier-mache-like wad of tissue out with my bare hand. But I digress...When I finally sighed and got up, it was time for us to go to mom and kiddo yoga. It's in our neighborhood, so I strapped Jack in the stroller and started the one mile walk . On the way, I chatted to Jack: "Look at the fire hydrant. That one's red! Look at the big black dog. Hi, dog!" I was babbling like an idiot when I realized Jack wasn't responding at all. I stopped and peeked at him in the stroller. He was dead asleep! As I walked, I considered my options: Wake Jack up so we could both go to yoga, be grumpy and totally not enjoy it OR let him sleep while I walked around the neighborhood in perfect peace and quiet. So I squashed the voice inside me that said I was asking for it at bed time if I let him start a nap at 3:45PM and went on what turned out to be a lovely one-hour walk, for all practical purposes, by myself.
After Jack woke up and we got home around 5:00, he started complaining that his botton itched. This is a perpetual problem we have due to his stubborn insistence that he wear neither pants nor underwear while playing in the sandbox. I was hot and sweaty from the walk, so I decided we'd take a bath before dinner, deviating yet again from The Schedule. We had a wonderfully relaxing bath together and then went downstairs to make dinner which was much more relaxing after a warm bath instead of staying sweaty and sticky. After dinner, I (gasp!) left the dinner dishes on the counter and even (gasp again!) neglected to get Jack to pick up all of his toys out of the living room. We went upstairs where I sat in the playroom feeling downright blissful while Jack, still naked from the bath, played with his trains. This is where Jason found us when he got home from work. He was quite surprised to find Jack up past his bedtime running naked around the upstairs, and he was downright shocked to see me with a relaxed smile on my face as I told him of the late nap. Jason smiled and said, "It only took two years, but Jack finally broke you." He laughed pretty hard and reiterated this statement when I calmly explained the reason Jack's hair smelled so good was because Jack had washed it himself in the bathtub... with my shave gel.
In the end, we brushed Jack's teeth, took him to the potty and read him books before bed like we always do. He went to bed about thirty minutes late, pleasantly tired and without complaint. Apparently, The Schedule is not as vital in keeping our world aligned on its axis as I previously thought. As I reflected on the day, I realized that what made it so relaxing was not so much that I threw The Schedule out the window. It was that I gave up control. I gave up thinking that if I just did the right thing then Jack would eat/sleep/act how I wanted. I let go of the idea that I am directly responsible for every missed nap, every bad mood and every hang nail the kid ever has. Life is a whole lot easier when you don't take responsibility for every single little piece of it. Since that Thursday, we have maintained a looser version of The Schedule. I still do think we need it; I just have to remember I'm not completely in charge of it. So yeah, Momma is now broken, but I like it. I think I'll stay this way.