I guess, in a way, that became our routine, our structure. Believe me, it felt like chaos at the time--all the screaming and the frantic attempts by Husband and me to figure out "OHMYGOD, child, WHAT do you waaaaaaaaaaant?????!!!!" But I think so much of the consternation on our part (and let's face it, on the part of the baby who had a LOT of ideas and no way to express them) was that we tried so hard to fight against (emotionally, if not physically) this routine that seemed totally natural for Ethan.
Being held almost all day? That is seriously good stuff. And let's face it--what he was used to when he was all snug in the belly. Noshing all day when there is no media-driven angst about the size of your thighs or booty? That is, also, seriously good stuff. Who can blame the kid for saying, "These are my demands. You want to get along with me? You'll play by my rules." I mean, he just plopped out of the abyss into this world and for some reason we thought he'd play by our rules? Not likely.
I wish now that I'd not read so many parenting books and magazines or participated in parenting message boards where the politics were so clearly "my parenting is better than your parenting." Don't get me wrong, I threw myself right into those battles and debates about breast feeding versus formula, when a baby should "STTN", whether co-sleeping is safe or a death-trap, and when/if a child should be exposed to the "evil brain-suck" that is the television. Talk about exhausting. And the truth is, parents, especially brand new, first time parents, ego-identify so much with the parenting choices they make, that it's hard not to read pearl-clutching horror and judgment in the voices and/or words of someone who is making different choices from you.
Had I not read every book with the word "Baby" or "Parent" in the title during Ethan's first year, and had I not gone all message-board insane (but there's really little else to do when you have to sit on the couch all day long because you're the bed and breakfast and the baby is either partaking of the 'bed' or 'breakfast' part of it pretty much all. the. time.), my first year as a parent would probably have been less fraught with "Am I doing the right thing? Shouldn't he be sleeping longer, and alone, and taking a bottle, and doing long division by now???!!!" Ah well, bygones.
Next time around, if there is a next time, I hope to approach mothering with a more laid back and accepting mindset. Several years of seeing my son turn into who he is today, I'm fairly certain that all of the crap thrown into most parenting books is pure bullshit. Your kid is who your kid is. Love him, take care of him, sure. But the schedule and all that? I really think that's more for us. To make us feel a sense of normalcy in our lives. And that is FINE. But babies don't come to us knowing schedules and routines (except of course, the sleepings and wakings of you, from when they lived your schedule with you 24/7 in your belly).
I say all this not to point a finger at parents for whom schedules and routines have worked or are a necessity. Or to imply that anything they have done or are doing is wrong. And I'm also not suggesting that you should decide to rent an RV and follow the Grateful Dead around the country with a 3 week old because babies don't need routines (although, if you DO rent an RV and follow the Grateful Dead around the country w/ a 3-week old, try to keep it away from the pot. And take lots of pictures, because that would be cool).
But seriously, the stressing about making sure that by a a certain number of weeks old, baby "is" doing this, "should" be doing this, and "may" be doing this (Yeah, What To Expect, I'm talking to you) made me at least as cranky as my baby for many months. Everybody's experience and circumstance is different. THAT is the biggest lesson I've learned and why now all the books that fit babies (and their parents) into a giant mold of "SHOULD", and the message boards where random strangers judge your choices as a parent, are all just crap that make being a parent so much harder than it already is.
I wish I could go back to Ethan in his little baby self and apologize for all the times I was frustrated at him for not sleeping 12 hours when he was 5 months old, or for refusing to eat on a nice, neat time schedule that would have allowed me a little more freedom. His schedule, his structure, made perfect sense to him. We were the ones who had to learn.
You know, this post went in an entirely different direction than I'd intended. It was supposed to be about about how much Ethan has changed and how much he now loves the structure and routine of his daily life--going back to preschool has made a HUGE difference in his mood and demeanor in the past few days. Sorry I got so off-track, but eh, it happens. The demanding, cranky punk of winter break has been magically transformed back into our happy little man, smiling and playing with nary a thrown punch or tantrum. All is right with the world.
Ethan moved up to the big kid's class and is so excited by this, he does not even bother to say "goodbye" at drop off anymore. He is a blurry dash into the class room and as I hem and haw at the door, wondering if I can sneak in and give him a smooch goodbye while he plays with his friends, his new teacher gives me the "you can go now" look. Sigh. Makes me long for those days when I sat on the couch, wondering when this screaming little ball of baby anger was going to get a little independence and give Mama a break. I guess I have my answer now. How I long for a few more hours of snuggling on the couch.