(This post was originally posted on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog.)
It’s 6:37 pm on Thursday evening and I’ve just finally sat down after a long day of moving boxes, unpacking them, and sorting and organizing their contents. I’m treating myself to a Michelob Ultra, if watery and tasteless beer can, in fact, be considered a treat. I feel relaxed and happy. Save for thedarn sweet puppy, no one is demanding that I be anywhere, or do anything for them. And as I look around my kitchen, where I’ve set up camp with my laptop, I see cleanliness and order. My- what a difference a week makes.
One week ago, I was living amid boxes that had yet to be unpacked from our move. A six-drawer chest from Ikea lay scattered in pieces in my son’s small bedroom- his clean clothes piled high in a laundry basket. My daughter, unable to understand how I could ask her to give up even ONE of her fourteen million Webkinz, slept in a room cluttered by toys. Having cleaned out and unpacked the kitchen and the bathrooms, we were just barely able to function. Still- though I had probably broken down a time or two over the course of the past month (immediately before, during, and after the move)- I had nevertheless managed to maintain an overall sense of optimism: reminding myself that so much change, in so little time, is bound to be stressful.
So, I actually felt sort of on top of things last week as I prepared for a busy Friday. It was Math Field Day for Kanawha County Schools and my son was representing his school in the 4th grade competition. I had arranged to go into work late so that I could get him there and get him registered on time. I had the whole day scheduled: drop off my daughter at school; take my son to Math Field Day; work ½ a day; return to MFD for lunch and the awards ceremony; and finish my day at work. It should’ve been so simple. Being a relatively disorganized and- um- fairly high-strung person, I made sure to lay out clothes for the kids the night before and even had my mathlete triple-check his backpack for his calculator. I even remember thinking how proud my super-organized (and awesome) best friend would be if she could see me.
The next day dawned bright and sunny (or maybe warm, but rainy- who can remember?) and everyone was up and dressed on time. Breakfast is always a bit of a struggle at our house, as it’s yet to become clear to my offspring that they, too, can pour Cheerio’s in a bowl and add milk. But, last Friday, everyone was clean, dressed, fed, and ready to go just in time.
Now, here’s where we get to an interesting point: As I rehashed this with my BFF, Alison (of organized and awesome fame), it occurred to me that some people (some highly effectivepeople) don’t think in terms of just in time. Because I have a tendency to be late, just in timeseems early to me. But guess what? Just in time isn’t early. Early is early. Is that crazy, or what?
Ok, but still, even though we weren’t early, we were all there, at the front door, ready to hit the road just in time; the excitement of Math Field Day carrying us ever onward. Until… well, until I couldn’t find my car keys.
I admit it- I am always looking for my keys or my phone. Or sometimes- and for weeks at a time- my debit card. I’m not proud of this fact, but I have a really nice personality and I’m funny, so there you go. You win some, you lose some. But, this particular day was a terrible day to run late on account of the keys being lost. I mean, I was making my little guy late and that really hurt.
I started searching high and low: everywhere! The kids were looking; the dog looked like he was looking (because you know how they cock their heads like they’re curious; how cute is that?); and I was looking. Our rounds of the house became more frantic, our search more erratic (could they be in the freezer, the sink, the commode?!).
It occurred to me that maybe my boyfriend had taken them by mistake that morning; I tried calling, but remembered that his phone was dead. I called a few friends , but no one was available to help.
When nobody responded to my urgent Facebook post (Help- stranded!), I started to really panic, the voice of my son’s future therapist droning in my head: “How did you feel when you missed Math Field Day because your mother couldn’t find her keys?”
I broke down and called my ex-husband who was already on his way to Math Field Day. After he gave me a (cough) gentle chiding, he came and picked up our son so that he would make it to the church on time, as it were. When I called again, thirty minutes later, to say that I still hadn’t found the key and really needed a ride, he came back again and loaned me his car for the morning. I was totally (if a bit begrudgingly) grateful.
Finally, mobile and much more calm, I tried calling the school where my boyfriend teaches to see if he might, just might have my keys. When he called back and the first words out of his mouth were, “I’m so sorry,” I knew that I’d found the keys at last.
And, here’s where we get to interesting point #2. Though I’d like to write this whole thing off as “his fault” (or, really, “anyone else’s fault”), I just can’t. If I had a place where I keep my keys, like, all the time, I would have known that something was off right away. Maybe I’d have been more persistent in calling my boyfriend, or at least would have spent less time looking for the keys in the toilet. Maybe I wouldn’t have freaked out as much, wouldn’t have heaped so much guilt and “bad mother” crap on myself while I searched in vain. (Except, well, I am Catholic, so maybe the guilt would be there no matter what.) (JK, Father John!)
Soooo… since I want to be part of the solution, rather than living in the problem, I’ve decided to execute an action plan. I’ve done a little unpacking each night this week and enlisted the kids to help, too. Today (Thursday), I took the day off work to gratefully accept Alison’s help with getting the house into shape. She is a person who really works hard to keep her home (and life) running smoothly and I want to learn how to be better at that. And, I’m proud to report that, right now- just for this moment- I feel like I can. Like- surprise! – there are actual tools people can use, techniques they can learn, to get organized or to do anything else they want to do. We don’t have to be born knowing how to do everything right, or even knowing how to do it at all. I’m amazed!