Monthly Archives: September 2016

Time Is Running Out


My son, Clyde, is involved in many extracurricular activities: dance, cheer, orchestra—if it has any creative element to it at all, he’s in. (Bonus points if it’s creative and active. He’s often lamented the fact that there isn’t a Marching Orchestra. Although I’m sure he would feel quite differently if he played the double bass.) Being involved in so many different activities has many advantages. For one thing, he’s usually too exhausted to get into any kind of trouble. And for another, juggling so many (often conflicting) schedules helps him to learn the value of time management. Or at least it will. One day. Eventually.

That’s the plan, anyway. There is, however, one major problem with this plan—and surprisingly, that problem isn’t Clyde. It’s the adults in his life. (Don’t get me wrong—Clyde is also a problem when it comes to this plan. He, however, is a minor problem. Literally. As in: he’s still a minor. This means that he still has a very good chance of changing, growing and maturing. Right now his poor time management skills can still be attributed to his lack of wisdom and maturity. The adults in his life? Not so much.)

Here’s the issue: his life is filled with meetings, lessons, practices and rehearsals that never seem to end on time. Meaning that when he arrives at the next meeting, lesson, practice, or rehearsal he is already late, thereby provoking a lecture about the importance of time management from the next adult on his schedule, who, in all likelihood, will then keep him late to “make up” the lost time, which will then make him late to the next event, provoking a new lecture at his next stop, on and on ad infinitum, ad nauseam, until finally the end of the day comes and he collapses into bed, wakes up, and does it all over again.

The obvious solution, of course, is to nip this cycle in the bud by speaking up at the very first meeting, lesson or rehearsal and pointing out that the ending time has come and gone. The problem with this scenario, however, is that it would not only require Clyde to be more aware of the time than the adult in charge, but it would also require him to then tell that adult that, regardless of where they happen to be in the meeting, lesson or rehearsal, he needs to leave. This is not an easy thing for most adults to do. (Ever have to stop your boss in the middle of an interminable powerpoint to tell them you have to go pick up your kids? Remember their frustration and annoyance, even though they were the ones who had scheduled the meeting to end at 2:30, and it was now 3:15, and you had told them from the very beginning that you had to leave every day at 3:00 to go get your kids? Yeah, now imagine having to have that conversation with them when you were fifteen and you’ll get a sense of how difficult it is for kids to interrupt their coach or director.)

At first I thought that this was simply a Clyde problem, meaning that it was a problem unique to children with overly packed schedules. (And before I get all of the calls and emails about the dangers of over-scheduling, please realize this: Clyde wants to be involved in all of these activities.) But then I started speaking to other parents, even parents of children with moderate to light schedules, and I realized that this was a universal problem: the ish at the end of whatever ending time was previously stated has become the norm.

As someone who has always included (and enforced) an end time on playdates, this is both frustrating and appalling to me. Still, I do suppose that in the long run it will help Clyde learn new time management skills. In fact, it will probably help him learn the most important time management skill of all: how not to let other people manage your time.

In the end, everything is a lesson. Just maybe not the lesson we originally set out to learn.

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Why the End of Summer is Like Christmas Coming Early At My House


One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the Christmas tree; specifically, the part where I get to take it down and put it out on the curb. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas—I am very fond of all of the “Chocolate Holidays” (holidays that give me an excuse to have a lot of chocolate in the house)—it’s just that as soon as that tree is gone my living room feels two sizes larger. (Yes, I know that getting a tree for the sole reason of eventually removing it is no better than hitting yourself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. That doesn’t keep me from doing it, though. The tree thing, I mean: so far I’ve resisted taking up the hammer habit.)

I’ve often wondered what other seasonal items I could bring into the house to give me that same sense of extra space once the season is over, but no other holiday (that I know of, at least), seems to involve creating as much spatial upheaval in your life as Christmas. Or at least that’s what I thought. Then I had a daughter who came home for the summer from college, and I realized that spatial disruption is by no means limited solely to trees. Or even to vegetation. It’s true: the very minute my completely human (we’re at least 90% sure) daughter leaves for school we celebrate the fact that our bathroom triples in size. Does that sound mean? I wasn’t trying to be mean. But at the same time I think anyone would be a little mean if they had been given a taste of a spacious, fully functional bathroom for a few glorious months, only to have it all snatched away again with the wave of a hairdryer.

Of course, logically I already knew that the state of my bathroom would improve once I had one less person using it—math, yo—I just hadn’t realized what a difference it would make who that one less person was. For years I blamed the state of my bathroom on the fact that I had two children using it—two people who left their towels on the floor, their razors in the sink and their empty shampoo bottles lined up in the shower like liquor bottles in a frat boy’s window. Then one of them left, and the truth was revealed.

Don’t get me wrong: the bathroom didn’t become spotless—not by a long shot. But the sheer volume of detritus did seem to decrease by significantly more than half. And not just because the “extra” child is a girl, either. Trust me: the boy in this family goes through just as much hair product and wardrobe changes as the girl. Somehow, though, as filthy as the boy is, the girl manages to be worse.

The same can be said of other areas of the house as well. My laundry room seems to grow impossibly more roomy with the subtraction of one child, at the same time my coffee supply lasts for days, instead of mere hours.

Maybe it would be the same no matter which one left. Maybe the reason it is so filthy with two is because they always know that there will be someone else to place the blame on, and so therefore know they can get away with making zero effort to keep things tidy.

Or maybe my daughter is just the biggest slob in the known Universe—a menace to all things bright and beautiful. It’s a theory. One my son seems to be pushing pretty hard. And since he’s the one that’s still here, I’m kind of inclined to believe him.

At least until Winter Break rolls around again. Although by then I might be too distracted by the tree in my living room to even notice the state of the bathroom. And if not: well, there’s always chocolate.

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