At first glance, I might look like a pretty laid-back parent. I think 3-day-old highchair detritus is passable snack food. I call both my kids “dude,” had zero qualms about whipping out the milk-makers to feed them in public, and have so far been able to avoid putting either of them on a leash. I recently found myself in a shopping mall bathroom dumping turds out of my toddler’s Pampers and into the toilet so that I could reuse the soiled diaper. Because apparently I consider diaper bags to be superfluous. Also, yes, Jessica Alba and your chem-free cult of earth mothers, I said Pampers. #sorrynotsorry.
Anyone who knows me well, however, knows that I am an anxious control-freak who loves order, resists spontaneity and is a stickler for The Schedule.
I got kind of fluttery just typing that phrase.
Everyone say it together: The Schedule.
Mmmm. Goes down smooth, doesn’t it?
I have one child who plunked right down into routine without batting an eye and one I had to wrestlemaniabend to my will, but I’ve spent the past 3.5 years working my feta-loving tushy off getting my children into a schedule so air-tight that I can leave all-day instructions for a sitter on a Post-it note.
Because kids need structure (I say, emphatically). Kids thrive when they know what to expect (I insist, self-righteously). My kids require 12-hours of sleep a night and a solid 2-hour nap in order to not eat your face off (I scream-whisper at the UPS guy who has the audacity to ring the doorbell at 2pm). I can’t tell you how many social engagements I’ve had to bail on because of our strict 6:30 bedtime, how many late-lunches I’ve begged out of because “I can’t push them past noon.”
Truth-be-told, my kids are both predictable and lovely to be around when they're following a schedule and that makes life easier for ME.
When my husband first presented to me the idea of the month-long, 3-time-zone, tropical paradise-included, i’ll-be-working-some-but-my-parents-will-help Vacation Extravaganza, my first thought was not
Fuck YEAH! But we’ll need snacks. I’ll start gathering the highchair cheerios
Um…no. Maui sounds lovely and all, but we’ll all die without the schedule. And who can enjoy a tropical paradise whilst deceased?
The idea of taking the younger toddler on several 5-hour flights was in-and-of itself enough to send me into a tailspin. You know that sound the Velociraptor made in Jurassic Park when it was about to consume a human arm as an hors-d’oeuvre? That’s the sound Caleb makes--exclusively and constantly--when he’s overtired. And when I realized that we'd all be sleeping in a big pile for most of the trip? Oh HELLLLL NO.
The routine. The expectability. The Schedule. Without it, we shall surely perish.
Obviously, the combination of me a.) wanting to take this awesome trip and b.) not wanting everyone infected by the leprosy of Just How Crazy I Actually Am led to me saying “let’s do it.” And so we did it. And guess who died?
Well, actually, this poor little finch who smacked into the window of our condo yesterday, resulting in several conversations with Sadie I’d just as soon have avoided altogether, but other than that, NO ONE.
No one died.
No one went blind. Or grew extra genitals. Or incurred huge developmental delays or whatever else I was afraid of. Because while yes, I do believe that boundaries and routine create a sense of safety for kids and wholesome food and deep sleep at regular intervals is important for long-term health and well-being, adventure and novelty and curiosity and adaptability are also important. What I’ve discovered is that I need the schedule just as much as, if not more than, my children do.
Because these kids, y’all. They are KILLING it.
Sleeping at odd hours, in close-quarters, in tents and hotel-rooms, eating new foods, smelling new smells, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people—I watch my two children drinking up all of this living and I feel something I never expected to feel while my children were still soiling themselves: pride.
I’m in awe of them. They’re brave and strong and resilient and filled with wonder and I’m so damn proud. Aside from the odd tantrum and vomiting episode, these tiny humans have been absolute dreams. They're thrilled with all the newness and excitement. It’s Mommy who has to deep breathe and send up surrender prayers. It’s Mommy who has a minor conniption when the baby spends 2 hours doing a full archeological excavation on the underside of an airline seat. It’s Mommy who wrings her hands with each 15-minute chunk past bedtime, just waiting for heads to explode.
So far, everyone’s cranium is still intact. And more than that, filled with proof that there's goodness and magic outside of The Schedule.
When we checked into the hotel in Maui, the kids ran around in circles, screaming "ROOMIES!!" and hugging each other. In the mornings they play quietly together until Sheldon and I are ready to scrape ourselves out of bed and start the day. When they’re sitting in the stroller and are faced with overwhelming stimuli, one reaches out and clasps the other’s hand for comfort. I watch them rely on each other in ways I never expected this early in their relationship and my heart overflows with gratitude. The preciousness abounds.
Don’t get me wrong: we’re in close quarters and this is a long trip. I’d be lying if I said there hasn’t been a moment (or four) in which I’ve really wanted to be like one of those assholes who leaves puppies in a box outside a Walmart and roll the dice that my kids would end up in a good home. But then it’s 9pm after a 12-hour travel day in which no one has napped and peanut butter eaten exclusively and the older one gazes blearily at the younger one and says “want me to sing you to sleep, Caley?”
How do you schedule that?