Saturday, August 02, 2008


As a parent, you often hear about the importance of routine for your baby. Get it into a routine as soon as possible. With fewer and fewer extended families people are getting their parenting skills from books rather than watching others, and sometimes rather than common sense.
It does help with a small child to have a bath, story bed routine at more or less the same time every night. But I think 'more or less' is where it should stop. I know so many people who think that means a rigid time for each of these things that must never be broken. Instead of using the routine to make their lives easier, they use the routine to make their lives a nightmare. These parents, instead of taking junior to the odd activity that would mean disrupting this routine, arrange babysitters, or worse still call off all other activities until junior reaches 10. Of course the knock-on effect is that the annual family holiday becomes a stressful nightmare instead of a relaxing time because you have to find flight times to accommodate junior's bedtime and meal times. They don't realize that by breaking the baby's routine - skipping his bath once or twice a week as a baby, shifting his mealtime by as much as an hour, not being able to give him a nap at the correct time, they would actually be creating an adaptable child who could cope with what real life will throw at him.
I got to thinking about this after yesterday's travel fiasco. I know so many people who'd have cracked under the pressure of potentially being stranded 4 days at Stansted with a 7month old, a 2.5 year old, an 8 year old and an 11 year old. And I know so many kids who would not have been able to cope with dinner being suddenly moved from our usual 6-30 to 11pm, bedtime being falling asleep on a bench in Stansted at 1am after no bath or story, the lights on all night, check-in for the new flight being 4-30am and a subsequent 6 hour 4 train journey.
My kids are adaptable, calm little human beings in a crisis not because of routine but because of the lack of rigidity in their routine. They have a set dinner time, bed time etc but these can be moved when necessary, and often enough that they are not freaked out when they need to be moved. This has been the case since babyhood - if you leave introducing this concept till they are old enough to understand, their routine and expectations are already too rigid for them to cope with the adversities of real life. Not only will my kids always be copers in life but they will know that some times even adversity itself can be fun.

No comments: