Monday, June 21, 2010

Same ol’ same ol’ is the new wonderful

daily planner Quick, she’s asleep - what should I do now? Watch TV? But that would mean getting up from this chair, and I don’t have it in me right now. Surf the web? Better not. That usually means buying something we don’t need because I’ve memorized my credit card number. Write a post for my blog? I’d like to but after spending the weekend single-parenting the little one, I’m exhausted. I’ve a new appreciation for those who do this every day. Maybe it’s because I’m her mama (and a pathetic pushover in my overcompensation for our time apart because of my full time job) that she tests her limits with me, unlike the saint that she is with her no-nonsense daddy. With him at a nerd fest for Father’s Day weekend, I’ve been left to navigate landmines with a toddler who fights me every step of the way. She doesn’t want to be changed. She doesn’t want her dinner. She doesn’t want sleep, and that’s always the toughest battle - with me anyway. With daddy it’s lights out at 7pm and not a peep for the next 12 hours.

This evening, after I shut the door to her bedroom, I am a vegetable. One that has been picked and left to wither in the sun. To write seems a monumental task; my thoughts expire before they take shape. In the back of my mind, I search for reasons for Little Miss’ difficult behavior, but I know of course. I pushed her. I wanted to share a special mother-daughter weekend with her so I decided that since it’s special, we could do things a little differently. Stay up a little later for some extra cuddling. Have more juice. Watch another episode of Sesame Street. Read bedtime stories on the daybed in her bedroom instead of our usual chair. Add a few more stuffed animals in her crib per her request. Not too much out of the ordinary, but these changes, a mere ripple in my daily rhythm has formed a tidal wave in hers.

You see, my daughter is not the type to deal well with disruption. She thrives wonderfully with a set routine. And for two busy working parents, it’s a dream. We have come to depend on the cadence of our routine to flourish, but the difference between us and her is that we crave spontaneity and change so we could tolerate, even appreciate, the predictability of our schedule. Not so much for Little Miss. She does fine with the occasional straying from our pattern, but I admit, in my zeal for a “fabulous mother-daughter” weekend, I had overestimated her.

Where I’m from, parents don’t really work around kids’ schedules. They schlep their kids in their pursuit of a robust social life, so it’s not surprising to see sleeping kids in strollers at the mall late in the evening and cranky ones in restaurants acting out because of over-stimulation. We couldn’t do that to her. And frankly, to ourselves. We find that having a tired, cranky, needy toddler in our hands is not our idea of a good time. Some parents chalk that behavior to toddlerhood and that it’s an inevitable part of parenthood, but we don’t agree.

When following a set routine, right down to her meals, bath and bedtimes, she is the most delightful little girl, shining with resplendent smiles and giggles. Why wouldn’t we want this all the time? It’s a great reason for the small sacrifices we make - when invited to a dinner that begins at 7pm, we politely decline. Yes, we would miss out on a good time, but getting her to bed on time today means an easier, happier toddler the next day. Two hours of merriment for us at dinner (assuming she doesn’t raise holy hell while we’re eating, which is likely since we’ve already pushed past her limits) versus twelve hours of a jovial toddler that spells an all-day high for all of us the next day. Hmm... No. Brainer.

It makes me a little sad that we can’t just decide to snuggle in bed to watch TV until she falls asleep one night, or that we can’t indulge in an all-day trip but that we have to work in four-hour blocks of time around her nap. But then I remind myself, she’s only 19 months. Those occasional late nights and long days will come. If a regimented routine brings me a thriving, happy and healthy little girl, we can deal with a little inconvenience and sacrifice for now. This is the version of parenthood we can get behind.

Oh look, what do you know? I did write a post after all. I think I may even have enough energy for a shower before snuggling in bed with a book, two cats and a dog. Tomorrow is a brand new day. Of the same old routine.

And I can’t wait.

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