Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A routine to fit four

Four kids, one house and a mom determined to gain some sense of routine. Just when I was ready to throw my hands up in defeat, I began savoring at least a few minutes of quiet.

It's taken seven weeks of patience and perseverance, but I think we may be on our way to some semblance of order. Order in a house I was beginning to think would never have it again.

A schedule with a newborn is an oxymoron. A schedule with two newborns is insane to even imagine. But months of no routine and a house of four little ones was becoming madness. There were days when I lost track of who had slept when ... myself included.

To some degree, the chaos worked to our advantage early on. Yes, maybe Trace had only been up an hour, but a little cat nap in the swing bought me a few minutes to fix breakfast for the older girls while I held Alysse. And Alysse falling asleep on the playmat after lunch allowed me a break in pace to read Alena and Alivia their books of choice before naptime.

At any given time someone might be sleeping somewhere. Someone might be being fed something. And what was going to happen next was anyone's guess. That was about as organized as we got during the first few months.

But, I'm a believer. Not a believer that every day at 11 a.m. we need to be having playtime or that 2 p.m. is the magic hour for afternoon slumber. But a believer in a flow of events which provides some structure to the day. A structure that gives everyone a sense of what's coming next and predictability that provides comfort.

I reached the point of not being able to tolerate the "flying by the seat of our pants" anymore at the beginning of June. Hell bent to reel in some of the pant flying, we started out small. Everyone had to stay awake two hours after getting out of bed before any naps could be taken. Somedays that proved to be a struggle, as I'd set one baby down to help someone off the potty or change another's diaper and come back to find the first one sleeping.

Slowly we made progress. Morning naps for babies about two hours after getting up. Morning playtime just for the big girls while Trace and Alysse had their sweet dreams. More playing for everyone while the babies had tummy time or sat in their little Bumbo seats (my latest favorite baby item). Lunch for babies, followed by lunch for Alena and Alivia.

We experienced a couple of days when I would have sworn it just wasn't possible to "sync-up" four with the combined age of less than five years. And afternoons proved (and continue to be) the most difficult. Get one down, get number two down. "Okay, half-way there," I think to myself. Read Alena and Alivia their books, get them settled in for naps. Yes, silence.

Wait ... Trace is up, needs to burp. Okay, 20 minutes have elapsed, but he's back down. Throw in a load of laundry and pick up toys. Crap, Alysse is now talking to her bumper pads. Roll her back over on her belly, retrieve her pacifier and pat her back.

Again, silence. If only for 20 more minutes before Alivia decides nap time is over. Then one by one, they get up, just as they went down. The moral: Even though I gained a combined 30 minutes of "down-time," everyone knows an afternoon nap is in our routine.

Everyone is happier, myself included. Alena and Alivia were well settled into their own routine before it was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Trace and Alysse. They could have walked you through the steps of their day themselves. "Wiggle" watching and bathtime included. And in the few months during which the haphazard ongoings occurred, I knew it took a toll on them. They like the stability of a routine and knowing what's going to come next.

With Alena it took six months or better before we settled into the "this comes next" way of life. Alivia arrived and within a couple months the three of us had our daily routine down. This time it's been harder, a greater challenge. But last week I began feeling optimistic ... we might just have it.

Next up: Getting babies to sleep through the night in less than 15 months and without finally resorting to the controversial, yet quite effective in our house, method of crying-it-out. If I can find a quiet solution to this one I'll make millions writing a how-to book. Yeah, probably not.

No comments: