Monthly Archives: March 2015

Day In The Life

Welcome to the March 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Day in the Life

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have given us a special glimpse into their everyday.

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Some brief backstory here: This is the third time I’ve written a submission for the Carnival of Natural Parenting despite the fact that – and I appreciate this may well be considered a vital criterion that I’m missing here – I’m not part of the Natural Parenting movement myself. (I aim to live and parent responsively and consciously, all right – I’m just not particularly crunchy about it.) But I like blog carnivals, and, for the third time, a carnival topic has come up that’s made me think ‘Hey, I’d find it really interesting to have a shot at writing about that.’ The first two I took part in, in case you’re interested, were my philosophy of parenting and my experiences with special needs; this time, the topic is a delightfully all-inclusive invitation to share a typical day in hourly photos or in a diary entry, and I figured I’d have another shot at writing a submission. The Carnival organisers can always turn it down if they object. Maybe I should have called it ‘A Day In The Life Of An Unnatural Parent’?

I prefer writing to taking photos, so I went for that option; besides, that has the advantage of not showing anyone how messy my house is. (Taking photos of consultations at work would also not be an option, for obvious reasons.) I liked the idea of doing it on an hourly basis, so I’ve stuck with that format. This is, as closely as I could remember and record it, my account of where I was each hour from waking up on Friday, 27th February.

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05:30 – In bed. The alarm goes off and, with the skill of long practice, I roll over with barely-opened eyes, press the snooze button, and slip effortlessly back into sleep. I don’t have to get up until around 6, but I set the alarm for half an hour earlier to give me that much time to surface gradually.

06:30 – Kneeling next to the dishwasher, unloading the bottom tray. I’ve already hauled the load of towels I put in yesterday from the washing machine in the kitchen to the dryer in the garage and poured out a morning cup of tea to brew ready for my husband, so, when I’ve finished the dishwasher and got my own breakfast ready, I’ll have a bit of time to sit and relax with my laptop while I eat. As long as Jamie doesn’t wake up early, which he’s been doing more often lately as his growing body sheds his sleep needs. A few crucial quiet minutes to myself before the day proper begins.

07:30 – Heading into the kitchen to make breakfast for Jamie. The rituals of getting the children ready in the mornings are proceeding nicely on schedule – Jamie is dressed, Katie has her tights on and is deciding which story to choose while she has her hair brushed. Both of them are still in bed; Katie in her own, eyes still firmly shut against the day, and Jamie in mine, a waystation on the way downstairs and into full wakefulness. One bowl of Choco Rice Pops, no milk (yeah, not the most nutritious of breakfasts, but I’m glad to at least be starting to use up the boxes of cereals that have been taking up kitchen space since Jamie went through a brief and unsustained period of cereal enthusiasm a year or so back). And Katie’s drink, to carry upstairs for her to drink before she has her hair brushed.

08:30 -Patiently, matter-of-factly, disentangling Katie limb by limb from the sprawl of pillow and duvet that’s made its way onto the floor next to her bed and carrying her downstairs. Ignoring the fake wailing, accepting the real frustration of a not-a-morning-person (‘But I’m nocturnal!’) having to get up and face the day’s responsibilities, teaching her by example the lesson that you keep going regardless and do what needs to be done.

09:30 – Poring over a patient’s notes on the computer screen, deciding whether I can sign the repeat prescription for Temazepam for him that showed up in my pile. Whatever I decide about it, best do it quickly – the first couple of patients are arriving, and I want to at least be on time for the start of surgery, even if that state of affairs is inevitably destined to be a highly temporary one.

10:30 – Seeing a post-op patient, answering his questions, updating his records. It’s a long one and I’m slipping more deeply into the inevitable running-lateness that is my constant companion in my working life.

11:30 – Typing up the notes of the latest patient, fingers flying so as not to lose time. (Teaching myself touch-typing when I was seventeen was among the smartest decisions I ever made.) At least that one was a quick one – I made back a few minutes, got myself from 45 minutes behind to a mere 40.

12:30 – Sitting with another complex one, listening, advising, arranging the one practical bit of help I can offer towards this person’s insoluble problems and giving the sympathy and understanding that probably matters as much or more. And slipping further behind again while I do it, but for once I can do that without pressure – with only two more left to see and, oh joy, no visits on the list for me today, I can give this one the time that’s needed.

13:30 – And another. The second-to-last was here with a routine matter sorted out in a few minutes (and I shared his frustration at the one-hour wait he’d had to have it sorted, while still knowing I wouldn’t have done things differently), but the last patient’s another complex one. But zie is the last, and, free from pressure apart from the hunger that I’ve learned to put on ‘pause’, I work my way through to whatever limited resolution there is to be found for this person at this time.

14:30 – Typing again, documenting the phone call I just made about a blood test result and the medication decision that the patient and I collectively reached. Must hurry – I should be leaving in the next few minutes and still have a couple of things I want to get done before I go. After catching up on the test results/incoming mail over lunch, I allowed myself a few minutes to decompress and read the internet, but it drifted into a few more than it should have and now I’m pushed for time again in this life where a few minutes here or there make a difference.

15:30 – Driving home, the children in the back. We’re normally home by this point, but we stopped to get a cake for Katie from today’s school cake sale (Jamie’s had already been bought and consumed before I collected Katie; his class lets out fifteen minutes earlier, and, as much of a pain as that is with a hyper decompressing child to keep out of trouble for fifteen minutes every day before being able to get his sister and leave, it’s at least useful for beating the queue at the termly cake sales). It’s been a good day for the children overall, but Jamie lost his ever-volatile temper after breaktime in an escalating situation that ended up with him kicking one of his TAs and pushing another; now he’ll have to write letters of apology to them both and lose thirty minutes of his computer/DS time as a penalty (we remain committed to trying to teach the children through discussion/explanation/coaching, but the practicality is that sometimes we need a deterrent as well). He was furious a minute ago when I reminded him of this and he’ll be furious again in another minute when he remembers, threatening me with unspecified dire fates if I dare to ‘delete’ any computer time, but for a minute in there he’s giggling over something he’s said or remembered or heard from his sister, the ever-precarious balance tilting back towards cheer again.

16:30 – The kitchen again, cleaning out the lunchboxes I didn’t have time to do earlier. It’s been a difficult hour, with Jamie, moody over his lost computer time, still muttering dire warnings to me. Not to mention messing around with his sister’s Geomag creation until he inevitably ended up squashing it and screamed indignantly about it being an accident. (Because, hey, who could have possibly predicted that repeatedly pretending to sit on it would end up with it accidentally being squashed! Funny how these things just happen! Though, to be fair, he did reassemble it for her.) Usually at this time of day I can leave the children alone for short periods of time while I get other things done, but today I’ve needed to be there, a low-key calming presence, and, more to the point, someone alert and on guard in case I need to step in and prevent a situation from escalating.

Which was tiring, and annoying, and the kind of joyous relief that has me thanking the universe for mercy. Because, a couple of years ago – less – he wouldn’t have had the restraint to keep it to muttering. He’d have been screaming and fighting and I’d have been physically wrestling him down to keep him from grabbing the forbidden DS, and grabbing the flying fists and feet to keep from getting hurt, and trying desperately to juggle this with meeting Katie’s demands as well. Now, he can keep it together well enough for me not to need to do more than sit with him and keep an eye on him. It’s slow, but he’s growing. He’s maturing. I love seeing it.

But it still meant the darned lunchboxes didn’t get cleared out earlier.

17:30 – Waiting for Jamie to finish watching something on my computer so that I could reclaim it. We have limitations on his computer time because otherwise he plays it every waking minute and his brain disintegrates into screaming mush – DS and Wii only after 4 pm on school days, computer not till after 5.00. But recently he’s started learning computer coding at school and discovered all the free programmes on the Internet for children who want to learn to code, and a new passion has been born. It’s definitely one I want to encourage, so I’ve decided that coding should fall under the ‘available from 4 pm’ category (useful skill or not, it does still involve sitting in front of a computer screen and he needs some kind of a break from that), but for some reason that probably made some kind of sense at the time I’ve been letting him have my computer to do it rather than changing the time limits on his computer. Which can sometimes make it hard to reclaim the computer when I want to use it. At the moment, Jamie and Katie seem to have found someone else’s coding programme involving pictures of a kitten creating coloured lights to music. Amazing what you can find on the Internet.

18:30 – Starting to get dinner onto the oven trays, ready for cooking. The delays earlier have led to dinner starting later than I’d meant to; then again, Friday dinner is always later than I mean it to be because by that time of the week I’m always tired and struggling to find the motivation to get up off the sofa and get stuff in the oven. Oh, well. Weekend in sight. I get out the somewhat random assortment of frozen and tinned foods that has accreted into our normal Friday night meal plan (cooking is not, shall we say, quite the forte of our household).

19:30 – At the dinner table.Dinner table conversation, alas, isn’t something we’re that great at either. Barry normally watches the news over dinner; I feel I ought to insist on a TV embargo with Sociable Conversation, but the reality is that it would end up being a monologue by Jamie about his computer games, with Katie interjecting now and again with random and somewhat surreal comments about kittens. So it’s another of those issues I’ve always just put off till some unspecified and nebulous later time. I skim through the week’s BMJ, figuring I might as well be getting something useful done with the time.

20:30 – Upstairs in the bathroom, getting Katie ready for bed, taking a few minutes to floss and brush my teeth while I wait for her to finish on the toilet (which can be a looooong wait). Jamie’s still downstairs, maybe talking computer games with Barry or maybe lost in one of his own computer monologues complete with sound effects as he plays through assorted imagined game fragments in his head. Until a few months ago we always did things that way round, but then Katie protested the unfairness and so now the children take turns to be the one who gets a bit of extra time downstairs (much to Katie’s chagrin, because since Jamie had several years of being the second one upstairs then she should have several years of being the second one upstairs or otherwise it will be THE UNFAIREST THING EVER!! I informed her that she already had. She wasn’t mollified.) I’ll call Jamie up when Katie’s ready for bed. Trying to get them both ready at the same time tends to be… counterproductive.

21:30 – Stretched out across my bed. The children are finally in bed, though I’ll still have to listen out for them – mostly they settle down these days, but when one of them starts talking or making noise things escalate rapidly through a vicious circle of setting each other off into heights of overexcitement if not calmed down quickly. But for the most part my time at this time of day is my own. I’ve put some laundry away and soon I’ll have to go downstairs, wipe off the countertops and dining room table so I don’t come downstairs to a mess in the morning, do the exercises I didn’t have time to do earlier, write more on this blog post before the details of the day fade too far into obscurity. But for now I’m just enjoying the rest, the quiet, the chance to read undisturbed for a few minutes. If I can keep my eyes open long enou…

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