What Gina Ford and I have in common is this: we both co-slept with our parents and as a result developed not un-serious sleep association problems. We both feel strongly that our home lives as children were a bit out of control and seek to redress that imbalance in our adult lives.
When I got pregnant I fell on The Contented Little Baby Book like a starving wolf on a cheese sandwich. This had to be the answer! And, to a certain extent, it was. Gina Ford laid it all out for me – how to regulate such an un-regulatable thing as a baby, a proto-human. A being that arrives as a huge, blank, unwieldy canvas, ready for life in a Mayfair penthouse or a Mongolian yurt.
I crave routine and boundaries, as does my husband. I like doing the same thing every day. I am never late. I am organised. I am uptight.
Advocates of a routine, which only means that you do roughly the same things at roughly the same time of day, say ‘Babies thrive on routine, children crave routine and boundaries.’ I don’t know if that’s true, I’ve got no idea. Neither of my children kick against their routines at all. They both willingly ate and slept when I told them to. But they are my children, and DNA is not a made-up thing.
Because, you see, I crave routine and boundaries, as does my husband. I like doing the same thing every day. I am never late. I am organised. I am uptight. I like being in control, which only means that I seek to impose an order – any old order! – on things. Sometimes my order might look like a mess to you, it certainly looks a mess to my husband, but it makes sense to me. It is ordered.This is what Kitty and Sam’s routine looked like, when they were about nine months old:
7am – wake up, 7oz bottle
9am – nap of about 30 mins
11.30am – lunch and 4oz bottle
12.30pm–2.30pm nap taken in own bed or if travelling, in a cot in a dark, quiet room
5pm – dinner 6pm bath
6.30pm – 7oz bottle and bed
The whole point of a routine, as far as I’m concerned, is not that your baby sleeps through the night, though that is an advantage – it’s so that it does its flipping two-hour lunchtime nap. Those golden hours when you can get some stuff done, or lie on the sofa reading a magazine, or rock backwards and forwards gibbering, or have a nap or, later, spend some quality time with an older child.You do the morning, which is the hardest bit, give the baby lunch, take a few bites of something or other yourself, potato-sack the kid in bed and then relax.
Wake child up at 3pm, sing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ for a bit and then it’s time for bed again! Yay, yay, yay!!!Whenever I would reject suggested plans at lunchtime because one of my babies needed to be in bed asleep between 1 and 3pm I would be asked ‘Oh, but won’t s/he nap in a buggy?’
What I most want to do during the day is eat a ham sandwich and read the paper.
And I would have to do some serious Zen Master shit to stop myself from saying, ‘Look, if you think I’d rather spend time with you, sitting in some shitty disgusting pub eating some foul gastrolunch I’ve eaten a million times before, than be somewhere, on my own, eating a very plain ham sandwich and reading the paper in the only bit of blessed peace and quiet I get all day, then you are out. Of. Your. Fucking. Mind.
’People assume you want to go out and see them, that you want to socialise in the middle of the day. That you should drag kiddo along for the ride.When the truth – for me, at least – is that going out for lunch has always been a way of passing the time in the day. What I most want to do during the day is eat a ham sandwich and read the paper.
If you are at your leisure during the day to do that, then fine, once lunchtime rolls around you can put on a pair of shoes and see a friend just to break things up a bit.
But if the only time in the day that you can sit and eat your ham sandwich and read the paper in peace is when the baby is asleep upstairs, what you don’t want is to have to walk your baby in a buggy until it falls asleep and then sit in a noisy pub somewhere talking a load of old bollocks, with half a mind praying that the baby doesn’t wake up early because a dog in the pub licks a bare toe while my back is turned, and therefore the baby wakes up and ruins your time in the pub, then gets overtired and has a nervous breakdown at 4pm, falls asleep at 5pm, then wakes up at 10pm and will not go back to sleep until 3am, therefore fucking up my entire life, for ever.
But this is just me!
If you are not like this, if you like to wake up in the morning and not know what you are going to have for breakfast, or where you are going to be sleeping that night, if you crave spontaneity and newness, if you just want to be around people all the time, if you can’t think of anything more boring than my ham-sandwich-newspaper-reading bliss, if you are late for everything and find doing things on the hoof just plain exciting, then don’t bother with a routine.
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