Never say never. All the things we did “wrong” last week.

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Sometimes life just calls on you to break ALL of the rules. You just can’t be awesomely prepared all the time. Um…have you read this blog? The title is kind of a dead giveaway, really. As a first time parent, you get all of these ideas. So funny. What were you thinking? I had ideas. Stuff about routines. Stuff about travel. Saving money. Nutrition. Blah blah blah. Occasionally, you just need to accept that things won’t go to plan in life. Just go with the flow. Know that it’s not forever and laugh about it.

At least that’s what I had to do when my grandfather passed away and all of a sudden we had to jump into action. Not planning on taking a toddler on an aeroplane until he was old enough to (attempt to) reason with? Forget about it! Having a long(ish) term plan for a visit to family in which you could plot it all out and save the moolah for it? Forget about it!

We just had to bite the bullet and do what we needed to do.

And you know what? It didn’t kill us.

I’m as surprised as you are.

For a week, we relaxed the ‘rules’ and we adapted to our situation as best we could.

We took a toddler on a plane. Before I was mentally prepared. Holy crap. Under the umbrella of taking a toddler on a plane, there are many rules to be broken. For us, it was screen time. We just sat him on our laps (OK so it was my husband’s lap mostly due to my bruised coccyx) and hoped he’d stare at the inflight entertainment screen FOREVER. I was prepared to bribe the Little Mister with any amount of snacks necessary, but luckily that was never an issue! I just didn’t want to be the most hated family on the plane! I was so awesomely unprepared for this plane journey, I’m not even joking. After our first interstate travel with the Little Mister at 3 months of age, I kind of thought that I’d be able to take months to plan the next one. Research a lot, prepare several strategies for looking after him, gather all necessary items that might help make the trip easier…yeah, right! Dream on, Kez!

Luckily the gods were smiling on us. Although, they don’t deserve all the credit. The Little Mister should get a billion and one gold stars. He was a champ. Both ways. Not kidding. Miracles do happen. He got restless on the way home, which was terribly frustrating and made the trip drag a lot, but he never bitched about it or annoyed anyone else. Hey, he can annoy his parents all he likes, as long as we’re not chased off the plane by a pitchfork wielding mob. Although, the pitchforks would probably be made out of blunt plastic…security and all.

We put our kid on a leash. I’m not kidding. If you are not a parent, you are horrified by this. I know that I was. I had my principles. Oh, God. Look at those terrible parents who have their toddler on a leash. Ugh, and they have the gall to disguise it as some kind of cute monkey/teddy bear/butterfly back pack. Let’s just call it what it is. A leash. Surely they can just discipline their child better than that, so they don’t need a freakin’ leash? I will never do that to my children! NEVER! Children aren’t ANIMALS! NEVERRRRRRRR!!!!

So…it turns out that it’s actually called a child restraint (I know – doesn’t sound much better). Also, I’ve discovered that it’s not so much about being cruel to your child as it is kind. They believe they’re being grown up and independent, because they can walk (or just try to slide all over the floor while people are looking – whatevs), rather than be cooped up in someone’s arms or a stroller. Also, it keeps them safe. I figure a child on a leash is far better than a lost child, because a lost child is any parent’s absolute worst nightmare. I could hold hands with the Little Mister everywhere we went as he toddled about (while he was attached to my wrist), but the thought of someone being able to snatch him and run so easily kind of makes me feel queasy. Yeah, and I’m not even the most paranoid mum you’ll ever meet.

Having the restraint (his is a very cute monkey thank you very much!) was a quick way to keep the Little Mister out of trouble as we navigated through airports (especially when our stroller was checked into luggage). Also, as wrong as it will look written down, when we waited in a terminal for a flight, holding the “tail” of the “monkey” from a much needed seated position while the Little Mister “explored” a (very) small space was very useful.

Much like Mia Freedman’s quote in this iVillage post about restraints, I was shocked to learn that I was once a child in a restraint. I don’t remember it at all and I haven’t needed therapy over it, so that’s comforting. I really don’t see the problem, if it’s used wisely as a safe, parenting tool. The Little Mister is a very well behaved little man (most of the time), but he’s also very very curious and wants to explore. This can be difficult in busy, public places for a 17 month old!

The Little Mister had several carers a day. Every day. Usually this would be a little bit challenging. Just because he can get a bit over-stimulated with all the activity and varied caring styles. We were with so many family members constantly and because the home we were staying in (thanks to the generosity of relatives who were so kind to have us) was not childproofed (nor would we have expected it to be), this became necessary. I just didn’t have enough sets of eyes in my own head to keep up all day, every day. I also struggled with my bruised coccyx, which made it difficult to physically intervene in some precarious toddler discipline situations and lifting the Little Mister from the ground felt near on impossible for a while. While every single person who helped take care of the Little Mister was so generous, loving and definitely trustworthy, everyone had a different way of dealing with him. Some were stricter than others. Some used a little bribery. Everyone gave cuddles. Played games. Spoilt him to bits.

I wouldn’t change this for the world. He connected with my relatives (who we only see occasionally due to the great distance between us) and they bonded. So what if he was a little bit crazy by the end of the day? He’d have to adjust back to a smaller (and less generous) entourage sooner or later. A small price to pay for an invaluable experience.

Healthy diet? What the hell is that?? For the first year of the Little Mister’s life, I was a very strict mama when it came to the Little Mister’s diet. I had to know absolutely every ingredient in his food and I restricted his sugar and salt intake religiously. I’m still quite strict, because if he’s anything like his mum and dad, chocolate, ice cream and chips will be his cryptonite and if he can hold off for a while, then we’ll have less battles to fight. He does love his food, so I want what he puts in his body to be as healthy as possible, especially while I have control over it.

In saying that, this week away meant eating out. It meant going to places where not all adult food on a menu was share-able and not all kids menu items were healthy. In fact none of them were. Could I have kicked up a fuss about it and tried a little harder? Of course, but did it really matter a couple of times during the week? Nope. Now that we’re home, I’m quite relieved to give the Little Mister a chip free diet again, but has he complained and screamed that he only wants chips? Nope! He’s young enough for me to get away with it (I know I might not always be this lucky) and I think he knew that eating out was different to eating in. His favourite snack while we were away, regardless of all the not so awesome ‘sometimes’ foods he was exposed to, was seedless grapes – so I hope that means I’ve done something right 🙂

One bad week won’t wreck him for life and I’m cool with that. It happens so sparingly, it’s not going to make him some kind of obese, chip monster for the rest of his days. It’s not a life sentence and nothing bad happened. He got so much exercise running about on my aunty and uncle’s rural property, that we figured he was doing OK.

Regular nap times? Um…no. We were on the go a lot and we were in a different environment. Admittedly, the Little Mister was a bit overstimulated with people, noises and activity. He wanted to be a part of the action when we were ‘home’ and he was often forced to take a quick half hour nap in the car (he can never sleep long in the car unless it’s night time). This was all the sleep he’d get in a day. It was all he thought he wanted. I used to stress out about this, but I realised that he’s one of those kids who can take it. He just slept better at night – despite us sharing a room with him. While I expected there to be an adjustment period when we got home, it turns out he was so tired he returned to longer nap times with great excitement. Literally. The happy look on his face when placed in his cot says it all!

If we had stuck to nap times at ‘home’ (my aunty and uncle’s place where we stayed), trying to make him sleep longer, we would have been fighting a losing battle. We just went with the flow and we knew that if he really couldn’t take it any more he would tell us and probably just fall asleep again. He never did and we just let it be.

We all relaxed more and got to do great things and see people who were very important to us. It was worth it. We all would have missed out on so much if we’d been sticklers.

The evening bath time routine wasn’t a goer. It was far more effective to have the Little Mister shower with his daddy first thing in the morning. It saved water (a precious commodity when the house we were staying in relied on rainwater tanks) and time and fitted in better with our holiday routine. The Little Mister proved to be flexible and resilient about the whole thing – we just enjoyed his happy smile when he had his first bath at home again 🙂

We stayed in the room to comfort him until he fell asleep. This is something we haven’t done at home in a long time. Mostly because a toddler can figure out how to exploit you reeeally quickly. Also, because he hasn’t really needed us at bed time like he did when he was younger. However, we were in a different environment and we had to share a bedroom anyway. This quelled the Little Mister’s anxiety and because he was so tired after a huge day, once he was asleep, he was out to it. It felt right, so we went with it. We had peaceful evenings with the rest of our family and the Little Mister felt comforted and safe.

When we got home, he LOVED being in his own room almost as much as we did. Balance was restored and we haven’t had a problem. He knows his own bed and he knows he’s safe at home where it’s quieter and he has a routine.

Sleep time blankie? Sure, you can have it when you’re not in bed. Well, it was just the once. In the airport. He loves his little giraffe blankie so much – lights up when he sees it. We wanted him to stay calm and happy, as well as encourage sleepy feelings for when we boarded the plane home. Normally I would be concerned that this might start an addiction to having a security blanket all hours of the day, but really, he was cool. Now that we’re home, he doesn’t cry out for Mr Giraffey during the day and accepts that if he steals him from his cot, he is going back there with Mummy’s help! Same went for the dummy. If he needed it, he needed it. We were asking a lot of a 17 month old, so fair was fair.

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I think that around the time the Little Mister turned one, I felt like it was OK to relax a little when required. He was ready. Sometimes he won’t eat everything that’s good for him, sometimes he’ll need extra comfort when he’s away from home. I won’t always be his primary carer and that’s going to have to be OK. I feel like we’re trying to teach him the value of routine and good habits, but also to be flexible and resilient. To enjoy a break from the “every day” sometimes. I just trust that he knows the difference between being at home with Mummy and Daddy’s rules/ways of doing things and being at someone else’s home or a different environment. As long as we provide him with a safe haven where he knows what to expect (and what is expected of him), why not let him go and explore other places, people and ways of doing things? It seemed to work well enough when we made the crazy (but right) decision to go camping a couple of months ago!

We are exceptionally lucky to have such a happy go lucky kid. I do not take it for granted for a single second. I think what I’m saying is that we know our own kids and what their limits are better than anyone else does. There’s no harm in exploring that and learning as we go. We all have good days and bad days. I think the message I’m trying to get across is that we don’t have to stress so much when things get a little topsy turvy and routines get broken. It’s not forever and sometimes we can all enjoy ourselves so much more if we let go. Just for a little while. We’ll know when it’s time to rein it in. It’s all about trusting ourselves and our little ones more.

I’ve learnt to give the Little Mister more credit. He’s just always surprising me and I wouldn’t know just how well he can handle travel or the craziness if I hadn’t been forced into giving him a chance.

Now that we’re home, the Little Mister is understandably very tired and wondering where all of his posse are – the house is much quieter. But we’re cool. He’s not scarred for life. We haven’t slid into a downward spiral of bad parenting and an obese juvenile delinquent in the making (plenty of time for that). Everyone’s fine and I love that kid to bits for it.

We didn’t know we would be travelling interstate again so soon. But you know what? Sh*t happens. Sometimes it really is a blessing in disguise and it forced me out of my comfort zone. We survived and we had a great time. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What “rules” have you broken lately? How do you feel about routines?

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