I was talking to friends today about routine and how much Charlie seems to need his, particularly in the evening. Break it a little - feed him in a different room, forget his massage, have his Dad come into the room while he's eating - and it can take up to an extra hour to get him to sleep. With this in mind, I have kept tags on what we do during the day. As Charlie does have a sort of schedule give or take an hour here or there, I have chosen some median times, created a schedule and given it to the child minder as a work of fact rather than the work of fiction which it patently is - and it is now Ruling My Life.
I took the tube yesterday. It was packed. People were clambering on blindly no matter that the tube was over crowded and another train was on it's way. And, without a baby or a pregnant belly it turns out that no matter what I think, I am in fact just another human and not someone deserving of special treatment. This was a shock. I wondered, briefly, if I should buy one of those shirts that says 'New Mother' or 'Baby on Board' (after all, I still have considerable weight to lose) or perhaps start leaking milk into my blouse in order to get, if not a seat, then at least breathing space as horrified Londoners move away while pretending not to notice. Realistically however, the man grinding his crotch into his girlfriend, her, the other women in early summer sandals or the 30 men in identical suits would not have noticed had I been carrying triplets and wearing a feather g-string. No, they were too involved in staring at their shoes and trying not to notice that they were touching the private parts of at least three other people. They do the same thing every day. I know this because when I was taking the tube every day, even if another one was only 1 minute behind, around 95% of people on the platform would try to stuff themselves into a packed train. The next one would be nearly empty.
These two observations are related. People, it seems, need routine, whether they know it or not, whether it's good for them or not. Following a routine is comforting. We know what's coming next when we're in a routine. No big surprises. No big changes. We can relax. Sit back. Turn on the TV. Crack open another packet of biscuits. Slowly, slowly our routines settle us, de-stress us, relax us... and turn us into over-weight spuds with no will power, no social life and a craving for cheetos.
At the moment, however Charlie's routine is turning me into a fried potato. There's no point in me setting a routine and then hoping he guesses what it might be, I clearly have to follow it. As part of this involves feeding him bottles during the day I now spend a considerable amount of time trying to get a rubber nipple past his little clenched jaw and windmilling hands and getting covered in formula in the process. Well YOU try it. Then there's breakfast, lunch time, nap times... what there isn't, anymore, is time for me to get anything done. You know, like bathing, combing my hair, the little things.
So where do I draw the line on this? Do I shoe-horn Charlie into a routine just because the child minder needs one? Or do I come out and admit that the list I gave her was made up and that in fact, she can do as she pleases with his day because that's what I do? Is that just coming out and admitting that I am a Bad Mother because I sometimes let him play on the floor in his nursery while I skip neglectfully off to wash his nappies while he should probably be lying in a darkened room with his eyes closed?
It's clear that he blossoms on routine and therefore worth trying but it is also clear that he wants to do what HE wants to do and sometimes that means lying in his cot and screaming rather than having a nice relaxing nap. Despite this, I continue to try - however I worry, does this mean we are going to end up with a massive potato baby who freaks out if we want to go for a walk when he's supposed to be relaxing with his bunny? Or will we have a chilled-out baby who treats variation as the excitement it should be?
Also, when does routine become a rut? When does calming down my little terror and giving him a sense of security become me turning him into a commuter cockroach who expects nothing but the same thing each day? If I don't put him into a routine, is he going to get cabin fever in school and end up stabbing the teacher with a pencil crayon on his first day?
All these questions. I'd like to continue this post and perhaps find some sort of answer but House has started and we watch it faithfully every week... god forbid you ask us to change.