By Laura Simon
I’m a list person. I’m not sure there’s anything better than methodically checking tasks off a to-do list.
Of course, I haven’t completed an entire checklist in at least eight years. Coincidentally, my oldest child is also eight. That’s what kids do to orderly list-makers; they wreak havoc.
I had a to-do list today, actually. I needed to pick up the groceries, and while I was there I wanted to grab a few outdoor plants for our front porch. I helped the three-year-old get dressed and loaded all three kids into the minivan. “We’re going to have to run into the store, so you have to change out of your pajamas,” I told my older two kids. That’s clear, right? We’re going into the store, so get dressed to go into the store.
We got there, and I pulled into a parking space instead of the pick-up lane. “WHAT????” my eight-year-old exclaimed. “We’re going IN? But I didn’t wear any shoes!”
And there went item number one on the to-do list. The store requires shoes, apparently.
I put the groceries away, loaded the kids back into the car, and attempted to run out for pine needles for our flower beds. We were parked in the lot at the garden store, and I was about to open the doors when my six-year-old gasped, “Oh NO! I forgot to put on my crocs!”
Seriously. Have you ever gotten in your car and driven somewhere without remembering to put something on your feet? I mean, I did get to work and discover I was wearing slippers one time, but barefoot? How does that happen twice?
Fortunately, the garden center is close to our house, so we drove back home, the barefoot child put something on his feet, and we drove back. I still got to check the pine needles off my list. But all that extra time meant I no longer had time for a workout before I took the kids to swim team. I tried to rationalize that spreading the pine needles amounted to exercise, but I have experience with real, actual mulch. Pine needles are light and fluffy. The workout didn’t get checked off.
I had plans of taking my computer to swim team and getting in almost an hour of work, but my three-year-old, who LOVED the first two days of practice, decided she was scared that an ant would crawl on her leg. I gave her extra hugs. I gave her extra kisses. I sent her back to her coaches too many times to count. I told her that ants couldn’t swim and wouldn’t get near her if she’d only stay in the pool. I walked her back to the pool and tried to extricate my pinkie finger from her tiny vice grip. I became the parent I said I’d never be: I bribed the child with chocolate. In the end, I think I burned more calories at swim team practice than she did.
I didn’t get any computer work done. But maybe it counts as a workout?
I forgot to take the bone broth out of the freezer, I ran out of time to dye my roots, and one child might have gone to bed with barbecue sauce on his cheek. I told them all to brush their teeth, but I can only verify that once child actually did it. That’s how it goes…once you veer off the checklist, things go you-know-where in a handbasket really quickly.
Today – like many days really – I rolled into bedtime and sighed hard. It doesn’t feel like I got anything done today. My list is only halfway checked. I rolled a lot of things to tomorrow, but it’s likely they’ll get postponed for a few more days before they get accomplished. If I’m measuring my life by any kind of productivity, I’m a failure.
But I’m not. Because today my daughter helped me plant a petunia. Today when my child confessed his bare feet, I didn’t lose my temper. Today, when my son asked for an extra bedtime story, I read it. Today, I walked away from dinner on the stove and started the music for a pre-meal dance party. I was present for a million little interruptions, and that’s more important than any to-do list I could ever make. Someday, those interruptions will be grown and on their own, and I’ll complete my checklists again.
It’s not easy, but right now, I’m learning to let the checklists go unchecked.