Happy hundredth day of school, people!!!!!!!!
Wait, what? You’re not completely overjoyed by this holiday? Are you not a teacher or something? Are you not aware that this is a BIG-TIME school occasion, like Valentine’s Day or something?
Don’t worry. Somehow, I’d forgotten too.
So, you can imagine my surprise this Monday morning when my husband opens my son’s school folder after a week-long vacation and we discover that TODAY is the one hundredth day of school. More compellingly, we need to create a t-shirt covered with “100 of an item” before we leave the house -- in twenty minutes from now. Mind you, this is a workday and I'm in my robe.
“Okay, bye!” says my dear husband as he pecks me on the cheek and thrusts the handout in my face.
Yes, I know we should’ve opened my son’s folder the moment vacation began. We ALSO should’ve opened my daughter’s lunchbox that afternoon, because now it will permanently smell like string cheese and banana.
But ASIDE from that. I have twenty minutes to get us fully clothed, affix 100 of something to a t-shirt, and complete a sentence about why we chose the item we did. Because, according to this handout I am reading ten days too late, my son and his shirt will be featured in a Pre-K fashion show and the teachers need a way to describe his outfit to the crowd. Hmmm. Maybe we can describe it as, “a thorn in mommy’s side.” How about I decorate the shirt with 100 thorns.
“Stickers!” The idea shoots out of my brain like a cannon ball. “One hundred stickers.”
Bam! The ol’ Producer Brain, kickin' in, when I need it most: with my kid’s dignity, on the line.
I’ve done a lot of event and entertainment producing and, in my opinion, I’d say that events are generally 70-90% preparation and 10-30% troubleshooting, depending on the quirks of the event. No matter the percentages, there is ALWAYS troubleshooting that needs to get done, and the most effective way to troubleshoot is to stay calm and focused with a positive, can-do attitude… no matter how exhilarating (or stressful) things become.
I toss an assortment of stickers onto the table. “Okay,” I address my oblivious son. “Please put on your clothes and brush your hair and don’t worry about your teeth they’ll be fine just come and hurry and put stickers on this shirt.”
“Okie!” he says, and scampers off. Damn. Go me!
“Focused and calm” is most certainly not my default mode in times of exhilaration and stress, but it’s something that I’ve learned to cultivate during events because it’s both kind and effective.
I must admit, however, that while I would never scream my face off when producing an event, it’s often tempting to raise my voice a little bit (glaring understatement), when it comes to my kids. THIS morning, though, I have a few additional reasons for maintaining an attitude of calm:
1) Today is a monumental holiday -- a time of peace
2) I am still in a robe so I need my son to do the legwork, and if I lose my cool and scream at him or over-pressure him, then NOTHING will get done. Things will actually move backwards. Screaming, if stress-relieving, never seems to solve my problems. Plus, screaming at people scares them and makes them lose respect for you. Your children included.
3) My checklist
My checklist. In the beginning of this year, I spontaneously decided to embark upon an idea that my mentors had been suggesting for just about six months: a self-care checklist: a chore chart for the soul.
My light bulb realization was that I could make this an actual structured, replicable written chart in my journal, with real check marks and all, to give me reminders and hold me accountable. As opposed to tasks like eating and showering, which I naturally remember to do, the items on this list are things I currently need reminders to do, in order to stay sane, loving, organized and productive. It’s a checklist of (ideally) daily tasks that will bring me closer to becoming the stable and self-actualized person I want to be. I don’t get to every item, every day. But it has helped me develop a ROUTINE.
On this daily checklist are items including, but not limited to:
-Walk/run/move (20-30 min)
-Write, or record life details for later use
-Feel gratitude for 5 things
-Say some affirmations, like Stuart Smalley on SNL
-Take CBD oil
-Straighten up for 20 minutes
-Review today’s and tomorrow’s itineraries
-Clean my car (45 days and counting!)
-Fun with kids
-Have a calm morning.
Because morning anger slows us down and, more importantly, I no longer want to terrify my children at half past 7.
Good news is, I’ve been on a Calm Morning roll; the checklist says so. And I wanna KEEP it that way.
I hear my son upstairs, placing alphabet stickers like he’s in a live performance of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: “Here we go, letter D! Get on that shirt, T and V!”
“Okay, that’s good!” I announce through a cloud of dry shampoo. “I’m sure that’s a hundred stickers, now come on down!”
He plods down the steps like the Hulk, arms tensed outwardly beside him so they don’t brush off any of what I estimate are 67 stickers adorning his Billabong tee. Oh man. I hope they don’t count them in class! I might not get away with this, after all.
I feel compelled to admit, right here, that there’s an item on my daily checklist which is very important and very difficult for me to execute. It’s called “admin/micro.” It stands for, “Administrative Crap / Boring Fucking Microsteps.”
“Admin.” is stuff like phone calls to the insurance company and emails to your work peeps that you DO NOT want to make and send.
“Microsteps” are the next necessary mini-steps in a bigger project or intimidating process.
Admin and Micro are the tasks that invite procrastination; the ones you DREAD doing out of boredom and fear but which MUST be done so that things don’t come back to bite you in the butt.
The more admin and micro (aka, preparation) you do, the more smoothly things go, and the less you have to cut corners on the back end (67 stickers, anyone?). The earlier you plow through the tedious tasks (like cleaning out backpacks), the less frantic troubleshooting you need to do, and the easier it is to stay calm! PLUS, the more time you have to do your hair!!!
Even if it sucks in the moment, powering through the administrative work of life enables your mind to stay freer of clutter and anxiety. Completing the next tiny microstep not only gives you a hit of dopamine when you cross it off your list, it also gets you where you need to go.
In shocking actuality, doing tedious things like admin and micro is actually an important form of self care!
The trick, I’ve learned, is to REMOVE THE DRAMA from the tedious tasks and to just do them one after the other, without manufactured despair, as though you are simply brushing your teeth.
“Mom!” my daughter hollers. “How do you spell Gabriella?”
I spell the name then hustle over, hooking my bra. “How come?”
“Because, I’m making one hundred cards for the hundredth day of school! This is my second one.”
Dear Lord. I gape at her.
“What??” she asks, perplexed.
Choose love, I tell myself. Just choose calm and love.
“Hunny, that’s a very nice idea... but just no.”
I peace out, fast.
“Shoes on, people!”
The kids go running meandering slow AF into the foyer while I throw on my dress and hop into some flats. We’re in the home stretch now! This is awesome!!!
“Okay, son. Now, before we go, we have to answer this question: ‘I chose stickers for the fashion show because _____________….”
We stare at each other blankly.
Maybe we chose stickers because, uh... because the alternative was your camp shirt, with 100 stains on it? Or...
He pipes up: “Because, it’s a fashion show.”
Aha. “I chose stickers for the fashion show, because it’s a fashion show.” That’ll do.
I scribble his answer onto the worksheet. Thus, submitting the most adorable tautology to ever hit the Pre-K.
When you think about it, all of life is the production of an event. One prolonged, often exhausting, sometimes-exhilarating event. If you mostly do the proper preparation, and mostly stay calm, focused, and positive during the inevitable troubleshooting that must occur, then you are off to an auspicious start.
However... in addition to proper preparation and calm and focused troubleshooting, there is one other element that’s CRUCIAL to pulling it all off with grace: a solid and respectful team.
My smart and stylish superhero opens the front door and lumbers jacketless to the car. His sister follows him out the door, ditching her two completed cards on the entry table. I love these kids. We did it. In twenty minutes, flat.
Calm morning, check. I zip up my jacket and beam. I am astonished that we pulled this off. And I am happy and grateful that there was only ONE hulk in my household this morning. I am proud, with a letter “P.”