To all the muddled mums and dads out there

It was Monday morning and we were ‘running late for school’. My two boys were usually very good at getting ready for school because I had established a simple effective routine for them. Unfortunately, as is often the case, it was me that was responsible for us having to rush out the door.

As usual, I had tried to fit as much as possible into my morning before driving my boys to school. This morning I thought I would have enough time to load and start the dishwasher and the washing machine, before we left. These are jobs that could be done later but if they are done before I get home it is psychologically easier for me to organize my day. There is nothing less motivating than coming home to dishes and dirty clothes piled up everywhere.

Yes, I know I could have done all those chores the night before but frankly after my boys have gone to bed, I prefer to allow myself to ‘veg out’ on the couch and watch TV (pre-recorded so that I can watch a show that I like, when I am ready too and I can fast forward through the advertisements). It’s good for my mental health to have some ‘me time’ at the end of the day and that is what works for me.

I had an appointment for our new second-hand car’s roadworthy check (required for change-over of registration) for immediately after the ‘school drop off’, so I had to use that car to drive the kids to school. After rushing out the door, I quickly transferred the boy’s car booster seats and safety harnesses from our old car to the new one, something I should have done earlier. A rogue strap hanging from one of the boosters got stuck in the door and I carelessly yanked it out in a hurry, miraculously without breaking anything.

Jeremy attached his own safety harness while I packed the school bags in the car boot. I love that my boys are becoming more independent. I wasn’t sure if he would do it himself but I’ve recently realized that ‘running late’ is a fabulous time to test my boys capabilities because while I am busy concentrating on ‘not being late’ they don’t rely on me to intervene to help. I heap praise on Jeremy for being so helpful and independent.

I go to put the car into reverse gear. I haven’t driven an automatic car in years and really should have tested it out before the morning rush. “Uh oh, why won’t it reverse, it’s going forward…” (talking to myself). I look at the schematic representation of the gears on the gear stick handle but it doesn’t help me. I assume that I am in ‘first gear’ but I can’t adjust the gear stick any further left to where it should be.

My high-pitched exclamation of “What on Earth is going on?” starts to panic my boys and Damian asks if he can get out of the car. I try to reassure them “It’s OK, I’ll figure it out, don’t worry” hmmm good advice, deep breath.

I call my husband (who is already at work) “Thank GOD you answered! How do you put this car in reverse?” “Pull the plastic casing that is around the gear shaft up while you move it into position” Very unusual and very phallic, but it works. Why design a car like that? Why?  Someone’s idea of a joke?

We get to school two minutes late but at least I can write ‘car trouble’ as an excuse on the boys’ late notices. If I had have been more organized this morning things would have gone a lot smoother and we wouldn’t have been late. However, I’m allowed to be imperfect. I’m human and I’d had a very busy week the week before.

The day before, I had driven my cousin Kristen (not her real name) back to her home in the country; a seven hour round trip. My cousin had come to stay with us for the week as an alternative to ‘schoolies’. Schoolies is a newly emerging tradition in Australia, where students who have just completed secondary school, go on a week-long holiday with hundreds and thousands of other teenagers, in a city location away from their homes. The media enjoy displaying video footage of drunken teenagers stumbling around the city streets at night and getting arrested.

Throughout the week, Kristen and I went from one activity to the next; museums, zoos, shopping centres, markets and cinemas. We had one ‘rest day’ where we baked biscuits and cupcakes for Kristen to take back with her to share with her family. I burnt half the biscuits but the cupcakes all turned out well.

By the end of the week, I was dropping breakables, putting car keys through the washing machine and forgetting to put perishables back in the refrigerator. You get the picture. Regardless of my depleted mental capacity, it was worth it. Site-seeing had been a valuable and enjoyable experience for Kristen and I.

After returning to my usual routines for a few days and a hefty dose of quiet contemplation, I knew that my excessively muddled self would return to my somewhat muddled self and the mistakes would reduce in frequency. It was a process that I was used to.

You don’t always have to learn from mistakes. The greatest lesson I have learned from my years of experience with mistakes is that they happen, just like the expression “Shit happens!” Mistakes might be more likely to happen under some circumstances, such as when you are most busy and could least do with them, but that is OK too.

Don’t give yourself a hard time about being muddled; it’s so much more fun to laugh about it.

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