There are many things about parenthood that I just couldn’t possibly understand or appreciate before I had a child of my own, including things like how much I would enjoy nursing and how much it’s possible to love one tiny person in spite of having to deal with all of the monumental challenges along the way.
Another one of those things is how life often revolves around the kid’s routine and how you’ll often do anything in your power to avoid messing up that routine. I remember before our wedding three years ago, we planned a dinner for our families to meet the night before the wedding. I did plan it early — for 5 p.m. — on purpose because my sister had a 6-month-old daughter and my soon-to-be brother-in-law and sister-in-law had a 19-month-old daughter, so I was a little put off when my sister said, “Okay, we’ll come, but [niece] goes to bed at 6:30 p.m., so we’ll have to leave early.” I certainly didn’t get it at the time, but there’s a need to keep things as routine as possible for kids because they thrive on that routine, and the consequences for veering from that routine aren’t pleasant.
We do try to stay flexible about some things, but for the most part, Baby B has a routine that works well for her and helps minimize tantrums caused by tiredness or boredom. However, we’ll make exceptions for certain special occasions (which is why I think it upset me that I felt my sister was being so rigid). For example, last week when we went out to the pizza/arcade place for dinner after swim lessons, Baby B wasn’t in bed until 10 p.m. (she’s usually in bed by 8 or 8:30 p.m.). Of course, if she’d started getting grumpy earlier, we would have left and come home before then, but we just watched her closely and saw she was still having a good time, so we let her stay. Another example is when we were in Boston, I’m pretty sure the earliest she got down for a nap was 3 p.m. — way later than normal. I think our general style of parenting is to have a basic plan in mind, but we really pay attention to Baby B’s cues and make further decisions based on that.
What we have to plan around most is naps. I kind of hate that I have to plan our weekends according to when she’s going to nap, but it’s a fact of life right now, and one that I’m sure I didn’t understand before I had a kid. She takes one nap a day, typically starting around 1 or 2 p.m. and lasting for about 2 or 3 hours.
What that means is that we typically can’t leave the house around, say, noon to run errands and expect it to go well since there’s no guarantee she will nap in the stroller while we were out. So, for things that like, we either have to plan to get out early in the day, or head out after her nap. We understand that and we’re okay with that, but I’m sure it can get a little annoying when we try to do things with other people who don’t really understand the importance. (And really, why would they get it? I certainly can’t expect them to know that.)
But, what it comes down to is doing what is best for Baby B and for our family, and we always keep that in mind. If it means she can hold off on her nap until 3 p.m., then great. If it means that we have to leave the children’s museum early to get her home, then so be it. We’ll do what it takes for a happy child.