Permission to Write Crap

This is a much-needed hug!

I just made an agreement with Ava (age 8):  we each will write four sentences on our individual projects tonight. Hers on her third grade homework assignment. Mine on this blog post.  Then we will call it a night.

You’ve just read my four sentences. Ava is still writing. I think I got the better end of this deal.

This agreement represents huge progress for me. Until recently (earlier this week), my go-to parenting tool has been to nag and pressure my daughter every night to get her homework done. In doing so I’ve created a monster – me. I’ve been told that my interactions with my daughter around “her” homework amount to my being “up her ass.” Apparently, being “up her ass” is not a formula for a good relationship with my daughter nor is it having the desired effect, creating a young person who takes responsibility for getting her homework done and enjoys the process.  Who knew?

For the record, I am not a procrastinator. I pride myself on being focused, diligent and somewhat militant in my ability to push myself to get things done. It’s the trait I hold onto with a death grip on those (far too often) days when I need to feel superior to my procrastination-prone husband. Arguably, pressuring myself works to get the bills paid on time and our household running somewhat smoothly. The problem is when it comes to doing the things that bring me joy (writing) and help me reach one of my goals (writing this parenting blog), I routinely find a slew of more necessary tasks to accomplish. Tonight for example. 

I had such high hopes for this evening. My plan was to sit down and pound out a kick-ass post for this blog. Unfortunately, I’d rather comb through my daughter Rhys’ weeks worth of hair tangles than write tonight. I feel wiggly. Wiggly translates to sitting down at my computer, writing the date, fixing the margins, searching for appetizer recipes on Pinterest, eating a cheese stick, clipping Rhys’ fingernails, writing and deleting one sentence before fixing the margins again.

I want to say f*** it for tonight. Instead, I start noticing Ava’s procrastination process. “Shit!” I think to myself, “She’s inherited the procrastination gene from my husband!” Did I mention I’m not a procrastinator?

As I was about to tell Ava to get to work, stop messing around and just get something/anything done (yes, I’ve worked hard over the years to hone this particularly encouraging coaching style), I realized she was following my lead, mirroring my discomfort and self-pressure. It was easier to see it in her tonight than in myself. Not to mention it’s much more satisfying to watch her spin her wheels and grow crabbier and crabbier than it is to focus on my own wheel spinning. I hate to fail. I know how to pressure myself and others. You could say I’m an expert at it.

Instead of pushing her tonight, I offered her a hug. We cuddled on the couch and talked about feeling wiggly and unfocused. I told Ava that I noticed she was struggling and it helped me notice I was struggling too. We decided some nights you just have to let go. But first we made our deal. Her only request:  I sit next to her while we wrote. We agreed whatever we wrote would be good enough for tonight; crappy writing encouraged.

Mama Needs a Hit

This past week was a rough one for getting Ava out of the house and to school on time. Ava tends to dawdle in the mornings and wait to the last minute to get her teeth brushed, shoes on and backpack ready in preparation for her jam-packed days at school. She loves to read in the mornings and can often be found reading Harry Potter while brushing her teeth and jamming homework in her backpack as the clock ticks ever closer to 8 am. Multi-tasking at its finest.

I typically spend my mornings alternately nagging, rushing and pressuring her to get moving or declaring to myself that I’m not going to say a word to hurry her along, a promise I am able to keep on average for 90 seconds (I’m working on beating my all-time record of 5 minutes). We live ten minutes from the girls’ school, a blessing in many ways and also an odd deterrent to being on time.

I’m a clockwatcher. And I’m convinced my hypervigilance with time keeps Ava from feeling any anxiety. Why would she? She has a mom who willingly and expertly holds any/all anxiety around her being late to school. Where can I get one of those for myself?!

Like all good crazy people, I’m vigilant about Ava’s promptness yet at times fairly lackadaisical about my own. I hate being late, but I hate being rushed even more. Unless I’m the one rushing myself. I often can be found urgently getting just one more terribly important task done before I walk out the door. These are life and death tasks, people! That towel on the kitchen counter isn’t going to just fold itself, now will it? Exactly.

Perhaps I don’t want to leave my house. Ever. More likely I’m an adrenaline junkie. I get a hit seeing how much I can do in the least amount of time. And like any good junkie, I find ways to justify my need for adrenaline. Waiting to the last possible minute before rushing to get somewhere on time is the surest way to deliver the fix I think I need.

I’m aware of all the many time-management tips that would make my life more manageable. On many days, I’m even willing to leave extra time to allow for the unexpected. I’m often rewarded with a peaceful, calm journey. But I can only keep that up for so long before I start longing for the hit I get from rushing. Mama needs a fix!

The other day, I was packing to get our family ready for our upcoming vacation to Florida. Perhaps you’re familiar with my particular brand of vacation prep? Before we leave, the entire house has to be decluttered, all the laundry that’s been hogging our dining room table for days has to be put away and every project I’ve not had time to complete over the past ten years must be finished. Only then can I feel ready to relax and enjoy. You’ll find me filing some ever-so-important electric bills from 2011 tomorrow – a now urgent project I couldn’t have cared less about last month. And the scrapbooks! Shit, I forgot about the scrapbooks I’ve been meaning to create for the girls. Since they were born. Better get to Michaels craft store tomorrow for some supplies before our trip on Sunday!

I kept looking at the clock as it edged closer to 3 pm, pick-up time at school. I kept packing. Now mind you, I had been working on these various important projects all day, hadn’t showered after a much-needed workout, choosing instead to change out of my workout clothes and back into my pjs until I could take a shower, something I was planning to do between repotting the plants and cleaning out the refrigerator.

While I”m willing to drop off the girls at school in the morning in my leopard print fuzzy pjs and a baseball cap, I’m not quite secure enough to pick them up after school in this same get-up. Only because pick-up requires me to haul my ass out of the car and walk through the school. But there I was, still packing. I knew perfectly well I was pushing the time boundaries and it would be hard to get to school on time to pick up the girls. So now, in a panic, I started rushing … ahhh, sweet adrenaline.

This morning I apologized to Ava. Perhaps it’s time for me to look at my own relationship with time before I try to teach her how to manage hers. I’ll get to that soon. Right after I finish organizing all our digital photos and cleaning the year-old crumbs out of our car’s backseat crevices. We have a vacation to get to, people.