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.