Routines for a reason

The wheels nearly fell off in the Hotton household last Monday, writes Mark Hotton in this week's And Baby Makes Three.

It was nearly the "bad day" that many people, including, I suspect, the wife (although she denies it vehemently), have been silently willing me to have.

It could have ended in tears – more me than him – but it all turned out well, thanks to a bit of judicious schedule juggling and, I think, some intense playtime by granddad.

While it wasn't anything too worrying in the end, it did emphasise the importance of routine for the little guy and for me to stick to it as much as possible. Any deviation from the timetable, no matter how small, can throw the whole day out and also have an impact on the following day. We PCGs (primary caregivers) tread a fine line.

It was partly my fault, but I also blame Zach for a little part of it. We each decided to have a bit of a lie-in; usual for me, unusual for him. He'd been squeaking away to himself (no crying though) from before 6am, but there was no way he was going to get the attention he wanted that early in the morning.

The wife left for work early and he was still chattering away in his cot so I drifted back to sleep, waking for the 7am news. There was silence downstairs, so figuring he'd cry when he really wanted to get up, I decided to snooze until he was ready to wake up.

Only, he didn't wake up.

When I finally woke at 8am, I had to coax him out of bed. And this was where the problems begin. Normally, he goes back to bed at 9am for at least 90 minutes, often longer. But getting up an hour late pushes everything back.

By the time he was fed and content, it was time to put him down at 9.30am in the hope he'd nod off and he did – an hour later. Now you can see the domino effect our lazy lie-in was having, and made worse by having an appointment at 11.30am.

Long story short, his afternoon sleep didn't start until after 3pm, which meant he was only getting up when the wife got home from work after 5pm, which in turn meant his bedtime was later than usual. Thankfully though, no meltdown, all sorted, and we're back into our normal routine.

His mum got him out of bed earlier, he went down at 9am on time and quickly fell asleep, so dad is a lot happier.

So it all got sorted. But it's given me a greater appreciation of the challenges some parents must have with children who don't have or follow a routine. It's hard to plan and juggle your day if you're unsure when they'll need sleep and how long that'll last for. At the time of writing, he's been asleep for more than two and a half hours.

To me, it appears the routine helps keep Zach settled – I guess he knows what's happening because he only seems to get upset when it's not followed; when he's kept up longer than usual and he gets tired, or when meals are late.

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that he's happiest when he gets good kip and food dished up at the right time. He really is just like his dad.

» Southland Times reporter Mark Hotton and his wife are first-time parents. Follow their adventures in parenthood in this weekly column.

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