Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wiggle Room

We leave for the beach next week.

My husband is already packed.

I, on the other hand, am barely keeping my head above water, so to speak. I thought I was ahead of the game loading supplies into the tote I keep in the mud room -- things we need to bring but don't need to use between now and then -- as I continue to try to manage the day-to-day chaos that is summer vacation.

I can't imagine how families with multiple children do it. Then again, maybe their children entertain each other, diminishing the need for them to leave the house to find something fun to do that doesn't involve a remote control or a screen (movies notwithstanding).  But as the work-from-home parent of an only child, I find that I need to adjust my schedule rapidly and frequently.

It doesn't help that my brain tends to have two settings: "plan way ahead" and "oops, that's due tomorrow." I buy birthday cards two weeks ahead of time, then end up racing to the post office to mail them so they arrive on time. Add to that a very um, optimistic sense of how long it really takes to do something and I often find myself revving my engine, only to have to throw the car in park, pick up another passenger and go somewhere else.

The thing is, I really enjoy finally being the mom who can drive, the one who can take kids somewhere on a moment's notice, the one who can be called in case of emergency. What I don't enjoy is the crazy, clutter-covered world that seems to emerge as a result of these decisions. Add to that the approach-avoidance sense of independence that's a fact of life with a teenager and I find that I spend more days feeling run over than feeling like I'm the one driving the car.

A schedule might help. That's how my husband gets things done. But when I think of all the things I accomplish that weren't on the schedule for the day when the week (let alone the day) began, and all the things we'd miss if we weren't open to spur-of-the-moment plans, I find myself feeling that schedules are overrated. And it seems that when I  think I have the schedule figured out, and plan to accomplish things based on the time frames I've set, something disrupts the balance, and I end up feeling even more frustrated because my plans fell through. Non-productive is bad enough. Cranky and non-productive is unbearable.

I can only hope that by exposing my daughter to different time management styles -- living on schedule and scheduling around life -- that she'll find a happy medium. I want her to learn to set deadlines for herself, but also to believe that all things are possible, a belief that doesn't emerge easily from a life that's too tightly scheduled.

And the next time I'm frustrated (I've scheduled that for about 15 minutes from now), I'll try to remind myself that sometimes the best things happen in the wiggle room -- the times that remained available because I managed to find the balance between scheduled and flexible.

It does happen every once in a while.

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