Creatures of habit and mixing it up

Two-and-a-half-year-old Zach is a creature of habit, a stickler for routine - except, of course, when he doesn't want to do something, such as eat dinner or go to bed.

But most of the time it's fairly easy to guess what he'll want or do next.

We've worked hard to instil some of those routines in him - the "bath, bottle, teeth, book, bed" one is a good example of a successful implementation. Bedtimes are, 95 out of 100 times, trouble-free. He has his bottle, the teeth are done, and he'll trot off to bed to snuggle with Jerry, Gerry, Baby Jerry, George and Dog all ready for his book.

Then he'll get some music playing, same song every night, and after blithering away to himself for 10 or so minutes he'll fall asleep. And we won't hear from him again until some time between 6am and 6.50am, when he'll stand at the bottom of the stairs, shout "mummy, daddy" loudly until one of us grunts.

Then he'll come upstairs and annoy us until we get up. (He does like to mix that up a little - sometimes he'll just appear beside and stare, and eventually you'll wake and get a fright.)

Ask him what he did at preschool and it's always "ate lunch, had food, did puzzles". Ask him who was there and it's always "Harry, Ella, and Ellie".

Every morning we have the same breakfast routine - porridge with "five yoghurts, not milk", in his Zach bowl, with his Wiggles spoon and fork, on his pirate placemat, with a bib tucked underneath to prevent any spills.

And lunch has to be a "honey sandwich, yoghurt and nana". With the odd biscuit thrown in to keep him happy. You should have seen the tears when the honey ran out and jam was substituted.

Going to the toilet involves him turning on the light. Drinking his bottle has to be done on his big beanbag (the Big Red Car).

He gets this from his dad. I like to find simple ways of doing things and will stick with them until an easier or smarter way comes along. At work I have Marmite and cheese sandwiches, with a biscuit and fruit. Every day. I'm not OCD about these things, just keen on simple routines.

Which is why Piper is a bit of a conundrum. She sort of has routines - we're sticking with the "bath, bottle, teeth (when she gets them), book, bed" one - but she's not as good a sleeper as he was ( awakes easily too), and sometimes her feeds are a bit hit and miss.

It tends to mess up my day if she misses a sleep slot, and while she's generally happy enough not sleeping more than two hours (and sometimes three) like her brother did, it's still hard to read some of her signals.

She's prone to changing her mind, so I'm guessing she's a bit more like her mum in this regard.

But there's still plenty of time to whip her into shape - after 19 years I've almost got her mum sussed. Almost.

Mark Hotton is a fulltime work-from-home journalist/fulltime dad who likes the simple things in life. And routines. And lists. And ticking things off lists. Even if it means writing on the list something he's just done and then crossing it off.

The Southland Times