I just finished reading a blog post on one of my favorite sites. It was all about incorporating a summer schedule into your household. And I just LOVED it! (I'm already secretly thinking of ways to do that when C is a little older and what that would look like ***IF**** he ever has a sibling)
But as I finished reading, I scrolled through the reader comments and once again, found it amusing that the word "schedule" is such a distasteful word. One comment in particular said, "despite being scheduled, it's very laid back". And therein lies the problem.
I think people think that the word "schedule" actually means "anal retentive person trying to be in control of everything and everyone in their environment" And really, I think "schedule" just means "a plan of attack".
I think everyone needs a plan of attack. When C was a baby, we had nothin'. Zip. Zero. Just a baby in a house with two people who had no idea what to do with a baby. Except we knew he had to eat and we were told to make him sleep on his back. Other than that, no plan of attack. And honestly, that wasn't really working for us. So we put C on a schedule when he was about 5 months old. (GASP!!!!) Yep. We only allowed him to eat at certain times, we let him play at certain times, and we decided when he would nap and for how long. And guess what? He lived! Yep! He's alive and honestly, I think he's a pretty good little toddler now almost exactly two years later. And I hear these horror stories about naptime and bathtime and bedtime and I can't really relate very well because, well, we've been forcing C to do those things in the same order for the past two years (at approximately the same time every single night). I think C skipped maybe 5 naps in his entire baby days and has gone to bed after 9:00 maybe that many times too. (We've lightened up a bit as he has gotten older-- sort of) This was NO accident. This is his anal retentive control-freaky parents deciding that maybe we, the adults, know what is best for him in other areas besides nutrition, education, and sun & water & gun safety.
But sooooo many times, I would tell people that I cannot go grocery shopping in the middle of the afternoon (yes, I have my afternoons off) because that is NAP TIME and they would look at me like I was nuts. (Okay, so maybe sometimes the look is justified. whatever.) But here's the thing. 1:00-3:00 is naptime in our house. Every. Single. Day. C is well rested, happy, and energetic in the evenings. Yes, he has tantrums (he's two, remember?) but overall, things run smoothly when he has napped. He also sleeps better at night when he has taken a nap. (Did you know over-tired kids get less "good sleep" at night?) So to me, it's worth it to stick around and let the kid nap.
And honestly, while it might be slightly anal retentive of us as parents, I think that kids (and people in general) appreciate a schedule. Or routine. Or plan of attack. Whatever you call it, can you imagine living in a world without a calendar? No idea what day it is? Can you imagine going to work and just doing your job with absolutely no idea of what needs to get finished? I imagine that's how kids without schedules feel. Like, "Are we going to eat today? Am I going to need to eat in my stroller? Or am I eating on the floor. Now you want me to sit in a chair at a table and eat? Are we going to play? Will I be sleeping at some point? And if so, do I get to sleep in my own crib or will I be napping in that carseat carrier thingy again? Or maybe I should go ahead and nap in the stroller 'cuz I'd rather nap here than in the car. Are we going in the car? Are you going to entertain me or will I be needing to try to entertain myself? Am I going to be in my own house or will we be hanging out with friends? etc. etc." Whereas, even the littlest of kids who are on a schedule will know what to expect during their day.
[Now at this point, I would like to mention that I'm not a big fan of "over-scheduling" children either. And that, my friends, is too big of a topic to really just "mention" in a post. I like having some unstructured play time, free quiet time, family time, whatever you call it. I think having this bit of unstructured time helps kids in many ways-- especially in a time where kids are rushed from one practice to another, barely having time to eat and get to the next rehearsal for something. But, I think this "time" can be part of the daily script- something to count on in their routine. For instance, we try to keep our tv off after dinner--- it's just wind-down, quiet activities until bathtime. Nothing is really "planned" or scheduled, but it's intentional.]
I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong, and so many things right, with giving kids a plan for the day. They know what to expect and their behavior shows it. I also feel that if we let kids decide what they want to do and when they want to do things throughout the day every day, then they get very confused when we change the course on them and decide something for them. (Even though we yell and throw toys at the table at home, we don't do it in a restaurant) By following a similar routine each day here in Spahnville, C is learning that his wise ol' parents are running the show around here. --Or at least we like to think we are.