The Other Couple

"I think the white whale is an allegory for an unknowable God.""Wait, what are you on? I'm on Brown Bear, Brown Bear."

“I think the white whale is an allegory for an unknowable God.”
“Wait, what are you on? I’m on Brown Bear, Brown Bear.”

My wife, daughter and I recently met another couple of similar age, ethnicity and street address whom literally EVERYONE at the community pool was confusing with us. The only apparent difference between the six of us is that Rick was taller than me, a point which was said to my face one too many times. People would call Mabel “Lucy” all the time and an irrational part of my brain would get offended. “They should be calling Lucy ‘Mabel,’ damnit!” Turns out they did. Anyway, Lucy is almost exactly a month younger than Mabel, so we are able to talk with the couple on a fairly level playing field, which is a nice change of pace from always feeling like I walked into a movie too late to understand why everyone is laughing.

However, on occasion it seems our extra month worth of experience seems to have inadvertently vaulted us into expert status, or at least that’s the way I imagine it in my very egocentric mind. It is also possible that I am looked to for advice because I am the only one of the four of us adults that stays with their child every day. And in talking to a family who has their child in day care, I was reminded how lucky we are to be in this position. I know a lot about Mabel’s habits and as such, so does Jenn because I can tell her about them. People that work at day care facilities, as far as I understand it, don’t often go home with the parents of one of their children every night and sleep in their bed with them. And if they did, they probably wouldn’t be working there for long.

We talked a lot about bedtime, eating, and nap schedules, which is the parent equivalent of “So, what do you like to do for fun?” They said Lucy doesn’t really have a schedule on the weekends. They just throw caution to the wind and put her to sleep when she’s tired and feed her when she’s hungry. And as it turns out, Lucy is still alive. This rocked my core and made me question why I’ve been so militant with Mabel’s schedule for the last year. It was brilliant in its simplicity. Sleep when she’s tired? That’s what I do! Lucy was like a little adult already. And here Mabel is, trained to know when she’s supposed to be tired by ringing a bell. She’s a dog. Lucy is a grownup and Mabel is a dog! Why have I been so rigid with this schedule thing?

Well, I came to a conclusion. And it’s not just because I read it in a book. It’s because, as a full-time caregiver for my daughter, and a person prone to fits of anxiety, putting Mabel on a schedule was something I could control. And it made me feel like a parent. It made me feel like I knew what I was doing. Whether I did or not was almost irrelevant. I could have just decided to wake up with her and start doing crap until she got tired, but after a couple weeks of that, I’d be crazy. I certainly don’t fault Sarah and Rick for doing it on the weekend with their daughter. It seems like a more fun way to live. I even think they’ve convinced me to loosen my collar a little, which will be good for my wife. But flying by the seat of my pants EVERY DAY would drive me to a clown posse-level of insane.

So thank you to the new couple with the slightly younger daughter and the slightly taller father for reminding me that the schedule need not be followed everyday with such unwavering accuracy. It’s OK if she’s up passed 8pm or if we eat dinner in the car on occasion. Just as long as we don’t tell the people from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. They would NOT approve.

15 thoughts on “The Other Couple

      • Hey Norine. Thanks for the message and I’m trying. School back in session has kinda eaten up all my efforts, both in terms of time and creative output. It will hopefully all be worth it in the long run. But thanks for reading and for the compliment. 🙂

  1. I totally get you. I’ve been the primary caregiver for our three-year-old for most of her life, and while it’s been fulfilling, and many people think of me as fairly calm and easy-going, parenting pushes my anxiety to a serious high. And I manage it with routine. Of course “they” say routine is good for kids, but I have to be honest and recognize that it’s at least as much for me. Probably more so, in fact. And like you say, it’s good to be flexible, but some people can bend and bend, and other have to be careful not to bend too much, too fast, or they’ll break. That latter one is me. Kinda like trying to touch my toes . . . the slower, more cautiously I do it, the further I can go.

    Anyway, that’s a long way of saying your post resonated with me. Glad I stopped by.

    • Thanks Neal. I tend to worry so much about what I’m supposed to be doing – but without going to the lengths of actually reading any books about it – that I get way too much anxiety over what probably doesn’t matter nearly as much as I think it does. Should we be getting outside more? Should we be outside less? What is the amount we should be outside? So yeah, if nothing else, she eats and sleeps on a level I feel like I can’t possibly be wrong about. And that helps me feel like a good parent. Until I have a bad insomnia day and park her in front of Blues Clues for 9 hours while I half-sleep.

      Anyways, thanks for the message and for stopping by.

  2. Remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine ends up with a different set of friends that are like a carbon copy of Jerry and crew? Anyway, this post made me think of that.
    In regards to schedule, I think generally they are good thing. However, both you and the children and the variables. My older son needs that schedule but when it comes to eating we don’t push it. For example, if he wants to eat dinner an hour later – no biggy. There’s no point to force it with him and he won’t eat or eat much.

    • Yeah, I’m not extremely rigid about eating anymore for that reason. Really, it’s just the nap thing that handcuffs me. And I’m realizing that’s mostly for me anyway. If I don’t get her home in time for her nap, she’ll instead just sleep in the car on the way home from the zoo and I’ll miss that 2 hours of me time in the middle of the day. I need that me time most days. But I’ve at least stopped crying if I don’t get it. That’s progress.

      Thanks for stopping by, Larry.

    • Thanks, Allan. I’ll try to keep the hits coming, even if they’re significantly shorter and seem like they’ve been written by a guy on 75 minutes of sleep. 🙂

  3. Because I’m even more egocentric than you, I read this as, “Being a stay-at-home dad is awesome and you need to follow that dream.”

    Also, how many times have you used the phrase, “Go to sleep or I will put you to sleep?” If n > 10, I have lost my faith in you.

    • Well, Mabel is starting to understand words so I try not to use threats as much, but when she only understood inflection, I said a lot worse than that, but in a really sweet and loving voice with a slight smile creeping out of the corners of my mouth.

      And being an at-home dad is awesome. Maybe you’re not more egocentric than me after all.

  4. “Papa”
    “Yes Lucy?”
    “I think I’m done batting these Weeble Wobbles about. To be perfectly honest, I’m rather bushed!”
    “Oh my dear girl, let us get you to bed for a bit of nap.”
    “Capital idea Papa!”

    This is not a thing that happens. I have a kid. I know he’s tired when he starts going bananas. It’s like being trapped in the monkey house with a Macaque on bath salts. Just a note of caution before you abandon the nap schedule altogether. 🙂

    • So you’re the guy from the news that got trapped in the monkey house with the Macaque.

      And I know this would never happen to you because you did not have a British child. I’m not sure why you decided to make your fake child British in this scenario. Do they dictate their own nap schedules across the pond? Weird.

      But seriously, I’m with you. Besides, the time and duration of that nap usually determines whether I realize life is a gift we are lucky to enjoy while we can or blame my high school guidance counselor for every wrong decision I’ve made in my life.

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