5 o’clock dinner. 6 o’clock bath time. 7 o’clock stories and bed. It’s been like that, pretty much, for the last four years. Not exactly like clockwork, but not a kick in the arse of it. We have these magic numbers in the back of our heads when we make plans. Miss L likes routine and Baby P has known nothing else. But what about me? Is forever looking at my watch, frantically trying to stay one step ahead at all times, making me a bit dull?
Routine was a new word for me when I became a Mum. It was the word. It’s what you’re told is the ultimate goal. Strangers question you about whether you have one yet. ‘Experts’ preach the benefits of them. Other Mums seem to have brilliant ones, magic ones, ones that worked miracles. Without one you’re an oddity.
I wanted to rebel, to tell people that I didn’t need one. That I flew by the seat of my mummy pants. But, really, I wanted one. You see I believe that children respond well to them, Miss L certainly does. I’ve told you about her traits before, and a big part of her is her craving for a plan, needing to know what every second of every day will hold.
And so we slipped into having one, it worked, we stuck with it.
But does having a routine mean that, by definition, you lose your spontaneity? Hell, I’ve sea kayaked through Costa Rican caves, potholed in Wales and walked up Table Mountain without a bra on. I wouldn’t recommend that. Especially on a hot day, with a hangover and only half a bottle of water. It seemed like a good idea at the time but we hadn’t read the guidebook and imagined it would a gentle stroll that’d clear our fuzzy heads.
I have no desire to start throwing myself out of a plane but equally I don’t like feeling that I couldn’t if I wanted to.
This week, feeling a little oppressed by the routine, I called the boy and told him to go to the swimming pool instead of coming straight home. Instead of having dinner together we all went for a swim together. Hardly wild I know, but it showed me that we don’t have to be bound by routine all the time. That it does you good to break habits. The children survived on bread sticks for dinner and no bath.
I’ve no doubt I’m easier to please the older I get. I crave simple things; peace, time, rest. And there are things that I used to do as a matter of course, dead normal stuff, that I miss.
Falling asleep when I’m tired. Not when I know I should go to bed as I’ve got to get up in six hours. Or just in case someone wakes me in the night.
Eating when I’m hungry. Just opening the fridge and eating when I want. Without hiding it from view. Without interruption or questioning. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s buying and eating the food that I want to eat, not what’ll cause least fussing or time to cook heat.
Leaving the house when I want, quickly. No throwing together a bag with stuff I may need for the journey, snack-bars, raisins or water bottles. Just open the door and walk out.
I’m fed up looking at my watch. It’s not even like it makes me on time, I’m still late. Last week I had a meeting with someone I’d not met before and I was on time. When I met him the first thing I shouted out, grinning like a fool, was ‘I was on time.’ He congratulated me and offered to leave me for another five minutes so I could enjoy my special moment a bit longer.
Maybe I should just take my watch off for a week and see how I get on. Or keep mixing it up a bit and read stories before bath time. Now that’s just crazy chat.