As many parents of multiples will tell you, a good routine can go a long way in easing some of the struggles of raising twins, triplets, etc. I am a firm believer in routine/scheduling, and it has worked very well for our family.
Naturally, our routine has changed a lot over the last twenty-one months. From a beginning schedule of eat/play/sleep repeating every three hours, we now have little girls who sleep 11-12 hours a night, eat normal meals with us grown-ups, and take one nap every afternoon.
Still, many things about our daily routine look much like they did eighteen months ago. The bedtime routine in particular has seen little change. Until recently, Addison & Mackenzie had a bath nearly every single night. It was just a part of the routine from the time their umbilical cords fell off at a few weeks of age. After bath, they get to play quietly for about a half hour, then they come sit in my lap to drink their milk while we read a few books and sing songs before bed. (Remember, Jeremy works evenings so I am the only one home during bedtime most of the week.) From a very early age, A & M were put in their beds awake, to fall asleep on their own while 'talking' and watching their rainforest mobiles....and that process continues today.
Due to their dry skin issues, we now skip bath some nights, but everything else about the bedtime routine is pretty much the same. The reason is simple: it works.
But there is also another reason our routine, especially the nighttime one, has seen so little change... I am SCARED TO DEATH to change things around. I am terrified that if we don't go through the same bedtime routine, saying 'night-night' in just the same way, singing the same songs before bed, my kids might not go to sleep. It feels good to admit it. : )
A strange thing has happened lately, though...I have felt myself beginning to ease up ever so slightly. A month or so ago, A & M started staying up past 7:00 p.m., which had been their preferred bedtime for over a year. While the early bedtime made it hard to participate in many things outside the house, it worked out well for giving me some time to myself in the evenings. We have had some periods where they stayed up later for a few nights here and there, but this time, I am thinking the 7:00 bedtime may be a thing of the past.
And guess what? I am dealing with it. I am even looking on the bright side: we have more time together in the evenings; I can cook dinner for all of us to eat together instead of feeding them at 5:30 and myself at 7:30; and the later bedtime means they sleep a little later in the mornings.
Look at me, all go-with-the-flow, huh?
I am finding myself loosening up in some other ways too. Addison & Mackenzie have spent the night away from me very few times so far, and only with my mom or Jeremy's parents. The first couple of times they went to Jeremy's parents' house, I was a bit of a paranoid wreck. I worried about how they would sleep, if it would throw off their schedule for the next few days, and if they would be glad to see me when they came home. (Spoiler alert: we all survived just fine!)
This past Saturday, we went to visit family in the morning, and Jeremy mentioned on the way there that his mom had asked if A & M could spend the night. He told her no, as we are generally very protective of our weekend family time. As we drove, though, I started thinking about all the things we could do with an afternoon and evening to ourselves. To NiNi's (Jeremy's mom) great surprise, we told her when we got there that A & M were headed home with her. I couldn't believe I decided spur-of-the-moment to let them go spend the night...they didn't even have pajamas! I decided to let the worries go and remember that she loves my babies nearly as much as I do and she would take good care of them.
So it ended up working out quite well, despite the short notice. A & M got to go to a baby shower with their NiNi and see lots of family, and Jeremy and I got to go to Olive Garden and enjoy a meal by ourselves. We had a good night together, and even got a second kid-free meal on Sunday after church. My best friend's daughter was baptized and it is our tradition to go to Top o' the River for a big family meal after a special occasion. (So, Addison & Mackenzie missed Brenna's baptism, but maybe she will forgive them!) Jeremy went to pick the girls up Sunday afternoon while I went to a funeral--my second of 2011, by the way, and I'd be fine if it were the last. I was so excited to see their little faces when I got home, and they were glad to see us as well.
To wrap up a long story, I am learning that sometimes it is okay to let go of our everyday routine and embrace things as they come along.
Could it be that we are finally moving beyond survival??