Analysis paralysis. That’s a quote I use frequently. My baby sharks remind me of it often through their actions. Their preferred way of doing life is more spontaneous than planned. I learned in a parenting class years back that structure is good for children to thrive. Condition them and their small bodies on when to eat and sleep and even when to soil their diaper if possible.
I struggled with that routine schedule when my totos were small, mainly for two reasons. Firstly I have an internal resistance to too much structure. Being too predictable kills creativity. I prefer spontaneous to planned. Secondly, it was difficult to put your kid on a schedule when you are nursing a serious hangover from sleep deprivation. There was hardly a night that we slept through till morning. These guys were in American or Australian time zones. Whoever taught us to be describing a good night’s sleep as – sleep like a baby, lied to us. Most babies sleep when they shouldn’t be sleeping I think.
School helps with the structure and now that my brood is getting older I see the benefits. But keeping up with that structure still finds great resistance from within. I relate with them because of my extroverted, live-in-the-moment outlook on life. I’m all for planning especially when it comes to how you want your life to turn out. We’ve been told that failing to plan is planning to fail. Securing my family is at the top of my priority list and though we can get lucky breaks along the way it’s unlikely I will achieve that spontaneously.
The heightened levels of fear and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic have led to many of us overplanning in an attempt to mitigate increased anxiety. We are leaving very little room just to be. I often feel guilty when I’m not busy. Like poverty will catch up with me and punish me for not being swamped. Getting that balance will take mental effort. I look forward to that moment when I will be fully engaged in my unique assignment, but I need to enjoy the unplanned gifts of life where you enjoy a moment with someone or a place without thinking of it too much. Just chill, my kids often tease me when they find up all tensed up.
Children are pros at this. Maybe it’s because they don’t pay mortgages or school fees. But does that mean more responsibilities should make us boring humans? I believe not. Two incidents recently supported this thinking. One was my daughter when making a request. I can’t remember what it was because her asks come fast and furious. She answered her own question when she felt I was taking long to give her an answer. I was processing how to respond and when I was about to speak she blurted out, “it’s ok daddy I know you will say no”.
That hurt me so I enquired why she would say that. She explained how I turn down a lot of her requests without giving them too much thought. Just then I realized that I’m successfully becoming that boring parent who is removing color from her life. I’m now saying yes more often. Of course, to what I feel is reasonable and allowable. We still have to balance between being a parent and a friend to our kids. I must admit we are closer now and have much more fun together. Plus the tight hugs of appreciation (or being bribed for the next ask) I get are priceless.
The second incident was a story doing rounds on social media about a governor who got corona. Like many others who have had a personal encounter with the virus, he spoke of how his outlook on life has been altered significantly. He spoke of how we give our best selves to stuff that doesn’t have eternal value. Then we suddenly realize we gave the most important aspects (people) the shorter end of the stick in our lives. When you’ve been through a life and death situation you tend to shift focus and allow yourself the permission and space to live on your terms. Clearly, we are most alive when nearest to death.
But how do you allow yourself to enjoy the unplanned moments of life when you are concerned (more like freaked out) about the future? therein lies my constant tension. The Good Book says we cannot add a single thread of hair on our heads by worrying. I remind my baby sharks almost daily that God has their back. it is now my turn to apply my advice and be fully present in the spontaneous moments. when we do, chances are we will get energized to tackle those important things that need detailed planning. Being spontaneous to enjoy unplanned moments is like taking a breather to reboot for more serious stuff.
It’s very important to plan and have targets. It’s a key ingredient for success. But this pandemic has taught has to have loose targets because they can move anytime bila notice. Just like the drive-thru fast food we buy, may we adopt change or transitions on the go too. That means having fluid plans.
To get more out of life don’t be planless but plan less. That’s my learning in this season and I intend to keep it that way even after corona.