I just found out that my children will be home from school again tomorrow. Turns out that there’s no place to put the 3 feet of snow that fell on Saturday and Sunday. After my initial, wicked disappointment that I won’t be able to get to my kitchen-cabinet-painting project for another week (Sam only goes to school Mondays and Tuesdays, so this week is shot), I immediately began planning. “Well, maybe another day of sun and balmy 25-degree weather will render the snow dense enough for a real snowman. OK.
9:45-10:00–remove, hang up snow gear
All this planning, of course, intersects with my children’s inclinations at very few points. Left to their own devices, their mornings all start differently: Peter wakes, having dreamt of fabulous engineering feats, ready to build–he will happily spend his first couple of waking hours hammering, duct-taping, cutting, sawing, gluing, and tying some phantasmagorical structure (or just a really nifty toilet-paper holder) together. Louisa will want to eat something, preferably chocolate (her mother’s daughter in this way at least!) right away. Sam, in the glorious throes of 4-year-old Oedipal rapture, will snuggle under the covers with me, bestowing nasty mouth-breathing morning-breathed kisses for as long as I can stand it. And then, along about 9:00, one of them will want to go outside, another will decide it’s time to go out just as the first one comes in, then #1 and #3 will go out together. They will play happily all day, and they may even do some of the things on my list, but it won’t look tidy, the way I’d like it to. I will end the day thinking that we “got nothing done.” My Mormon goal-setting training undoes me, even as I do that most Mormon activity–mothering.
I can live with my own frustration; in fact, I think that’s my job. I’m convinced that my children’s ability to truly “take no thought for the morrow” is one of the delicious things about childhood that I should mess with as little as possible–it’s what makes them able to forgive so quickly and so willing to throw themselves into something without procrastinating or holding back. Louisa regularly begins sentences with things like “Yesterday…I mean, when I was little…” I’m convinced that they have a fuller sense of what matters, of what is because they don’t think in chronological terms yet. It seems to me that this is a godlike skill: “The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord.”
What I’m not sure about is this–when (not to mention how) do I teach my children to plan their days? To set goals and make “to do” lists? Their lives will be impossibly difficult if they don’t learn to do this, and I suspect there’s a point at which it becomes massively more difficult to learn, but I don’t know where that point is, and I’m not sure when to interrupt them in their practice of the valuable skill of loving the moment to teach them to be neurotic like me. I still suffer from insomnia many Sunday nights, because when I was a kid, Sunday evening was the time set aside to make goals and plans for the week, and my body is perfectly trained to release stress chemicals at that time, so that I can lie awake in agonies of performance anxiety. As much as I want my kids to be able to work toward their dreams, I want them to be able to sleep toward them, too.
I suspect that this is a piece of a bigger problem–we are commanded and taught to be anxiously engaged, and yet always ready to set aside our business, like Mary, to attend to “that good part.” How do we do it? How do we make plans and not hold them too dear? How do we accomplish enough without getting tied up in the rush of achievement? How do we “improve the shining moment” of our mortal lives while remembering that we are creatures of eternity, with “world[s] enough and time” to do all that we dream of and plenty we can’t yet conceive?
And do people who never get snowed in think about this stuff? No wonder Californians are so mellow…
UPDATE: We may not be getting anything done, but at least there’s been some poetry: Louisa came in after playing outside for a while this morning and said “ooooh. I’m all aquiver with frozenness!”