I first learned of PRN, an abbreviation for the Latin pro re nata, which translates as "in the circumstances", in nursing school, when learning medications. Some medications have a specific (and sometimes rigid) schedule, whereas some medications are given as needed. Pain medications are an example, where a patient will request a dose as they feel they need it. So how does this medical term relate to parenting? I've been mulling over various blog post topics (naps, breastfeeding, meals vs. snacks, etc.) trying to figure out just what it is I'm trying to say here and trying to organize my thoughts on parenting as a whole.
That's when I remembered the term PRN, and realized that it fit mostly in line with how I approach parenting. "Doesn't everyone?" I hear you asking. Doesn't every (or at least almost every) parent give their child what the child needs, when they need it? My answer is that they probably do, but maybe not so much in the way that we do. (Or maybe everyone does this and I'm totally unaware of how others parent and I'm just way more oblivious than I realized, but that's a topic for another post, so...) I'll give a few examples of how this looks in our day to day life as well as how it can be pretty awesome most of the time but quite frustrating at times, too.
Sleep is one major aspect of life that we do in a PRN-sort of way. We don't have a specific bed time or nap time where we try to get Grace to sleep. We also don't have a specific time that we wake up. Grace and I wake up whenever she wakes up for the day, whether it's 7 am or 10 am. She nurses to sleep for nap and sleeps on my lap (or next to me in the bed if I feel like I need a nap as well), so whenever she seems sleepy or cranky or she signs that she wants to nurse, we go through our pre-nap routine of diaper change, bathroom time for me, getting me some tea and sitting down to nurse. She sleeps for however long she needs to or until I have to use the bathroom again (even then, sometimes she'll fall asleep again after she wakes up for me to use the bathroom). It's difficult if not usually impossible to transfer her from my lap to a different surface, so we've incorporated her napping on my lap into our daily routine.
Bed time is similar to nap time, but it has the added aspects of getting pjs on and getting in bed. Most days, Andrew will take care of diaper change, pjs, etc, while I use the bathroom and get my pjs on. Then we head back downstairs to watch some pre-bed tv (yes, I know, tv will rot our daughter's brain and we are horrible parents to even own one, right?). Grace usually nurses to sleep in my lap while we watch something like DVRd episodes of Craig Ferguson (she's particularly fond of Geoff Peterson, Secretariat and the "What did we learn on the show tonight, Craig?" kitten) or Antiques Roadshow. When it's time for the grown-ups to get in bed, we make the feeble attempt to transfer her to her crib, she wakes up, then I nurse her back to sleep in bed while I fall asleep. I feel guilty saying that, once we got breastfeeding down, I really haven't been sleep deprived because of my daughter. (My staying up til 2am watching tv or being online and being tired the next day is definitely not her fault.)
Food is another thing that is pretty PRN around here. When she's hungry, she eats, is what it comes down to. I offer her food, she eats of it what she wants, then tells me when she's done. If it's not a meal time but she seems hungry, I'll offer her a snack. If she doesn't want a snack, she'll tell me. She's very good at saying "no", and uses it almost always the right way (sometimes she says no when she means yes, and I know this because I'll be holding a mum mum and ask her if she wants it, she'll say no but take it from me and eat it, for example...but we're working on it). I'm getting a lot better at having at least a couple of foods that I know she likes as options in our meal. Also, whenever she says she wants to nurse, she does.
Our day to day is more of a routine than a schedule, where we take each day as it comes. We have a pretty good rhythm of wake up, breakfast, play, nap, activity of some sort (grocery shopping, walk, etc.) lunch, nap, play, dinner, bed. What time we do those things varies by what time we wake up and also by how long it takes us to do each thing (some days we skip morning play time and go straight to a nap, sometimes there's no morning nap, for example). This kind of flexibility is wonderful for incorporating things like time change due to daylight savings, but it's not so great with the timed activities or making plans with other people. Because I don't know when she'll nap, it's harder for me to make definite plans during the day (not that I really ever make plans, so it's not really too intrusive, so that's one positive of being socially awkward and avoidant, yes? yay!). I'm getting better at saying "screw it, she'll sleep in the car if she needs to" and waking her up from a nap early or going somewhere when she might've been napping were we at home.
I know that, if we had different life circumstances, things would be different. If I were working outside of the home, things would be different. If we had another child, things would be different. If anything were drastically different, things would be different. They aren't, though, so that's how we roll.