For 40 years, I have been a prompt person. I prided myself on always being on time – often early for all of my appointments. And now, I have two young children and it seems a minor miracle if I make it out my front door in a timely manner.
As a teacher, I know the value of a predictable routine for kids. Everything runs more smoothly if there is a general framework of familiarity every day. And, I am the mom of a serious insomniac. It can easily take my daughter an hour or more to fall asleep. I know what the experts recommend – primarily earlier naps and an earlier bedtime.
But seriously people, how do you fit this all in when faced with the powerful phenomenon of TODDLER TIME? At two and a half, my daughter is spanning the period between toddlerhood and being a preschooler. She is brimming with curiosity, teeming with questions and bursting with energy. The child can turn the simplest tasks into the most epic of journeys.
And, as a proponent of play-based learning and outdoor activities, I want to give her time to explore and run and get messy, but I feel like our whole lives are a race against the bedtime clock and I am constantly rushing the poor kid.
“Five minute warning, we are leaving the park, Mommy has to make dinner.” Daughter enjoys dissecting a flower bud and two more trips down the slide. Mommy, with infant strapped to her front attempts to chase and laugh with eldest daughter, ensuring she gets appropriate attention to fill up her attachment-tank.
“Let’s go, let’s go, home time.” Daughter dawdles along, watching a bird in the sky or examining a blade of grass. Eventually Mommy buckles her into the pushable tricycle or tosses her into her wagon, because seriously, how can the two-minute journey from the park take fifteen minutes?
Finally make it home and baby needs to be fed. I’ve got that wee one trained to enjoy no longer than twelve minutes of nursing time, which is often interrupted by a well-placed, “Mommy, I need the potty” or “Mama, I spilled something”. I’ve become very adept at doing things one handed, while holding the breastfeeding baby in place.
Then the little one gets stuffed in her swing and elder “helping” with dinner (adding at least 20 extra minutes to meal prep – but how can I deny this bonding, learning experience?).
Then eating. I know nutritionists recommend slower eating, enjoying one’s meal and chewing each bite, but come on, kid, how do you possibly eat this slowly? The tortoise in the public library consumes food at a more rapid rate. I inhale my meal in record time, then clean the kitchen, change the little one, think about tomorrow’s meals then focus in on goading my daughter through her leisurely graze across her diner plate.
“Bath time, bath time, let’s go, let’s go.” Now a six-minute climb up the stairs. There are fifteen steps. I cannot for the life of me fathom why we take so many breaks and pauses on the way up the stairs. The anticipated bedtime is looming closer – I don’t want to miss the window. I keep encouraging our upward ascent.
Now I need to urge, plead and cajole my daughter into the bath.
“Just a minute, Mommy, I need to go to work first.”
Once I finally get her in the bath, I have to urge, plead and encourage her to get out.
“No, Mommy, I’m a swimming monkey. Five more minutes.”
Towel dried, pyjama-clad and now it’s bedtime routine: teeth brushed, three books (although most nights she loses at least one as a consequence for dawdling), nursing the baby while reading – I’ve got this mothering thing… and then, “Oh, I need to poop.”
Tell me, why is it mothers can get this task completed in thirty seconds or less, while small children and husbands take a half an hour to rid themselves of their solid waste?
“Are you finished pooping, my love?”
“No Mama, he’s sleeping.” (He?)
Now we’ve quite soundly missed the intended bedtime of 8 pm and are moving into the danger zone of 8:30. As the minutes tick by, I fear the later bedtime will trigger the insomnia monster in my sweet child.
Finally get her into bed, following all the suggested sleep-inducing routines – quiet, dark room, predictable pattern, softly sung lullaby (while the little one chews my fingers to keep her quiet).
And, then my eldest daughter lays awake, talking and singing to herself for at least another hour, occasionally yelling out, “Mommy, I can’t sleep.”
Damn it, missed the window again. Must do better tomorrow.
And now it’s time to put the baby to bed.
Phew! Anyone else feel they are rushing their kids through the day? I try to balance my nagging with letting the girls experience playful, carefree joys of childhood, but inevitably, I end up chanting, “Hurry up Let’s go! Focus on what you are doing!” a hundred times a day, rising to a great crescendo as bedtime looms.
Tell me it gets easier. Tell me one day I'll be prompt again.