Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Planning Parenthood

When you have kids, you assume that life will change.  Everyone around you tells you so – even strangers on the street will smile and wink when they know you’re expecting a child, giving the impression that you’re in for it, that your life as you know it is over, that nothing will ever again be the same.  As a soon-to-be-parent, you might relish this challenge and new adventure because you have planned it, you have expected it, you have welcomed it, and you anticipate the joy of having a mini-you out there in the world.

What no one really prepares you for, and what they can’t possibly, are the details of how life will change after children.  My children have been around for a while, but they are young enough that I still remember how life operated before they came along.  For instance, before the kids entered this world, I had the capability to plan things.  I have since lost that capability.

Now, I’m not talking about planning for a vacation, or for a party, or for a girls’ night out, which of course is the sole most important thing in life after having kids.  These things take time, and everyone can find the time to plan major events like them.  I’m talking about minor, everyday plans, like planning to go to the grocery store, or getting a pedicure, or eating lunch.  Having a kid means that a week’s worth of plans goes down the drain when the school nurse calls at 10:30 am and asks you to pick up your feverish child.  In an instant, your work plans/fun plans/household chore plans/watching season four of Mad Men plans dissolve.  You must be on your toes, you must be flexible and above all, you must learn not to let it get to you.  You must deal.

Having children is why I always have a to-do list a mile long.  I never know when my plans will change, and who can remember that the car needs to be inspected?  Everything must be written down or it doesn’t exist.  Who knows when I’ll get to it?  I must drop everything to catch the ball when it drops, and am often holding it instead of tending to plans. 

This is why I can’t commit to weekend plans, or tell you what I am planning on doing next month, next week, or this afternoon.  I avoid planning details of life because they often don’t work out, and I’ve become a pro at rolling with the flow, making things happen on the fly, or squeezing a four-hour chore into 30 minutes.

I plan on redecorating, and one of the kids needs a new mattress.  I plan on shopping for the day, and a kid gets sick.  I plan on going out to eat with my husband, and a last-minute baseball practice is scheduled.  I even plan parenting moments, like how I’ll give my kids the sex talk – it will be one-on-one, at the kitchen table, sharing a snack; it will be meaningful and they will never forget the tender and loving way I explain things.  Then one day my daughter point-blank asks me about the facts of life when we are driving to the grocery store, while I’m trying to remember if we need nutmeg or cinnamon.

When you become a parent, you find out that you can’t ignore parenting.  You learn instead that plans, however carefully made, can wait.

And if you’re me, you better have that sex talk ready.

2 comments:

  1. So, so true. And why, WHY do all the 'important' talks come up when you have approximately 2.3 minutes before arriving at the store, the school or church??? argh... Nothing ever goes the way I have it perfectly planned in my imagination!!

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    1. Seriously. Someone needs to teach these kids a lesson on good timing.

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