I've tried really consciously not to plan the way I'll be as a parent. Mostly because I just know that if the words, "Oh my goodness I would never---" come out of my mouth, I'll end up eating them someday. And because I don't want parenting to be about My Plan For My Child, because I know that if that is the focus, I'll end up seeing my child as a final grade on me. And because, honestly, I'm just not that much of a planner.
But every now and then, I do end up doing something I didn't really see myself doing as a parent.
The big one has been scheduling. I've never really been one for schedules. I never saw myself being one of those parents whose baby had to eat and sleep at certain times. They eat when they're hungry and sleep when they're tired, right?
Newborns, it turns out, do just that. A lot of babies, it turns out, continue doing just that. Peregrine, it turns out, did not continue doing just that.
Peregrine would eat constantly, if he could. But when he snacks all the time, he never gets enough, and so he's cranky and hungry, and the cycle keeps perpetuating. He does best with intentional, focused meals. In his high chair, no distractions. Just him and the avocados/hummus/meat/cheese/whatever else loaded-with-calories thing I can dig up.
And Peregrine doesn't sleep when he's tired. You know those cute pictures everyone has of their child falling asleep in their high chair/exersaucer thing/the middle of the floor? Yeah, I don't have a single one of those. Because the more tired Peregrine gets the more manically awake and alert he becomes. I guess I just assumed, before I had him, that he would just get droopy a couple of times a day, and at night, and I would soothe him and put him to sleep. If I left it to him, he would possibly never sleep. Except for a few short hours at night when he did drop from absolute exhaustion. Seriously, I can't believe how few hours he would sleep if I just let him fall asleep on his own.
But, it turns out, he thrives on a schedule. By making his mealtimes and sleep times intentional, I can catch him before he becomes cranky with hunger, or manic with tiredness. He's a much, much more peaceful little person. And while I don't necessarily like being tied down to his schedule (seriously, it would be much more awesome if he'd just nap in the car when he got tired), it's part of living with a person who isn't me. It's weird, though; I never imagined saying things like "Peregrine will need to nap around 2:00." Because I'm not really a person who naturally does things around 2:00. I do them sometime in the early afternoon. Or later, if something else comes up.
Today, I clocked in another I-didn't-see-myself-doing-this parenting moment. I packed food to go, put Peregrine in the car, and drove up to the hipper part of town for a Baby Gym Class. As in, an enrichment class for one-year-olds.
I'm a bit bound and determined not to be a soccer mom (which means I'm probably doomed to be one). And I've never really seen the point in baby classes. I mean, you don't really need a teacher and some peppy music to teach babies how to clap and bounce, right? And I believe pretty strongly in the importance of free play and in letting children do their own thing in their own time.
Well, winter is settling in here in the Northwest. And by winter, I mean months and months of rain and cold. I've been dreading this season with a toddler. What do you do with an energetic child when going outside (or outDIE!!! as Peregrine says) means freezing rain, and wind, and mud? When going to the park means toweling off every slide and dressing your kid in trash bags in some vain hope of keeping them marginally dry? I asked a couple of neighbors with toddlers how on earth they stay sane in the winter, and one and all they recommended The Little Gym. So I bit the bullet and signed up for the free class.
And Peregrine loved it. Adored it. He explored every corner of his classroom, crawled across colorful mats at top speed, clapped and booty-shook to all the (terribly corny) music, shrieked with delight when he learned how to shoot baskets, and even, entirely unasked, gave his teacher a hug at the end of the class. I can't even begin to describe how much fun he had, and how much energy he burned off, and how much more content he's been the rest of the day. So here comes my first step down the Slippery Slope Of The Soccer Mom. When I think about the long, rain-filled days, and Peregrine's ever-growing energy, I think it will be worth it.
I guess all this is to say that it's worth holding expectations lightly, and letting parenting grow and evolve. Having ideals is a good thing, to be sure. I have a lot of ideals. But children, and reality, are usually more important than ideals. Flexibility is a good thing, too.