It is 9pm as I write this. I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get all four of my kids to bed for the last two hours.
I have work to do.
I have Netflix episodes to binge watch.
I have a very real desire to feel, for a few moments, independent. An adult. I want to do things that I want to do, like eat ice cream out of the carton if I feel like it. (I usually do feel like it.) I want to throw my hands in the air and wave them (like I just don’t care).
Instead I am wearing a path back and forth between the couch and the three bedrooms, refilling water cups, fulfilling threats to turn off the lights, giving kisses AGAIN, and saying second and third prayers.
What I am thinking about (besides the ice cream and the Netflix and the couch) is the fact that people left one really important thing out when they talked to me about becoming a parent.
They talked about diapers and colic and the lack of sleep and nursing and diapers and teething tips and ear infections and enjoying every moment, even the hard ones.
But they left something out.
They didn’t tell me that parenting is constantly changing.
Every day, every month, every year. Every time I feel like I understand my children and their needs. Every time I find a routine and think it will stick.
It doesn’t stick. Routine is never routine.
Take that first year: you spend the first month in a haze. You begin to know your baby’s smell. The feel of his or her hair. A pattern, if not a schedule, forms and by the second or third month, you catch yourself thinking, I got this.
And then: your baby learns to roll over. But can’t roll back. Suddenly that established pattern of napping and sleeping is gone because your baby wakes herself up every time she rolls over in her sleep. Every hour. Every twenty minutes. Every ten.
Or he begins teething. At least, you THINK it’s teething. It might be an ear infection or a cold. Or it might be nothing.
Really? It’s just parenting.
There is an ebb and a flow that sometimes works itself into a pattern or routine. Then the seasons change or the moon gets full and your child hits a developmental milestone or it’s daylight savings time or who the heck knows.
Just when you get your feet under you, it all slips away.
It is not solid. You can’t relax for too long. Don’t get comfortable.
Even on the fourth child. A month ago, everyone was asleep by 7:30. The house was quiet. I could blog or write or take a deep dive into Netflix. I knew what to expect. Until it changed again. Not for any real reason.
Maybe Cooper doesn’t need a nap anymore. Not if I want her to go to bed early, anyway.
Maybe Quin needs a later bedtime or a little more than me putting her in the crib and saying, Peace out, babycakes. (It was nice while it lasted.)
You try things and you see what works. You find something that works. Until it doesn’t. Then you try things until you see what works NOW. Until it doesn’t.
So whether you are on your first kid or your fifth, I want to assure you that it is totally normal to feel like the rug is being pulled out from under you every few months. Your life won’t be stable for long.
Maybe the best thing we can do is remind ourselves to enjoy the ride. We can find a mantra (or a MOM-tra) that doesn’t too much pressure on you to feel perfect. To measure up.
I don’t think that people mean to be misleading about this. I think we all just forget the changes and the instability when we are in that deceptive lull. We get to a place of peace and routine and forget the changes that got us here and then are weirdly surprised when it all changes again. So we don’t talk about it all that much.
We strive for kids sleeping through the night and bedtimes that work and dinnertimes where people eat things and nap time where maybe, just maybe, you might rest too. We think that’s what everyone else has. We have a sneaking suspicion that it’s only in OUR house that everything is constantly changing.
What I’d like to do instead is this: I’d like us to start a conversation about the fact that our kids and their routines change constantly. AND THAT’S OKAY. It is totally normal that “normal” changes every so often.
Maybe you get six months or a year. Maybe less. My normal lasts a little longer with my older kids. But the under four year olds? Changing way more frequently. Factor in a house with multiple kids under four and you have more changes, which may or may not occur at the same time.
And again: IT’S OKAY. We are going to get through this and we are going to learn to be cats landing on our feet. We should appreciate the times that feel comfortable. We should catch our breath and stockpile ammunition (or ice cream) to get us through the coming turbulence that we KNOW is ahead. We should expect it and remind ourselves we got through the last bumpy ride. We will get through this one just fine.
Breathe. Just breathe. Know you aren’t alone. Know that you will strive to find a comfortable routine only to have it change. Just like every other mom I know, even if we sometimes forget about it in the lulls.
As I (used to) say to Quin at bedtime, Peace out, babycakes.