Unmaking plans

I've never been a terribly spontaneous person. I like to plan things. I like to know things in advance. I kind of don't always like surprises.

But that approach to living isn't all that compatible with life with a toddler, is it? Sure, I can plan to go to the grocery store around 11 a.m., and to be home promptly by noon to get lunch going. But that sure doesn't guarantee the day's going to happen that way.

There was a time when the slightest interruption of my best-laid plans would throw me into a tailspin. I'd be out-of-sorts, unable to adjust, mad at the world for wrecking the perfection I'd envisioned.

And, OK, fine – that's still kind of what happens. But I think I'm starting to get better at spontaneity. It's by force, at the hands of a two-year-old, but there's improvement nonetheless.

As recently as last summer, I really tried to plan out every day of the week in terms of what Nora and I would be doing. It wasn't so much a schedule or a timetable. It was more like one central idea I could cling to as SOMETHING TO DO. So maybe Monday was a trip to the playground, Tuesday was grocery shopping, Wednesday was storytime at the library, Thursday was a trip to the museum, and Friday was a playdate with friends.

Now that Nora has started preschool, two mornings a week are out of my hands, which is quite a relief. Of course we hang out and do stuff when she gets home from school, but I usually have enough stuff for her to do at home to not require any planning.

But there are still Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to contend with, and it still feels like a lot, especially now that cold weather is creeping in and the playground isn't always an option. Recently, though, through the forceful effects of disrupted plans (staying home to wait for a plumber unexpectedly, for example) and also a bout of laziness, I've sort of given the planning habit a rest.

It can be terrifying (to me) to go to bed at night not knowing how I'm going to keep kiddo entertained the following morning. But a few times lately I've done just that, and much to my surprise, when morning comes we just kind of figure out it. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. Last week, I took Nora with me to early vote, and despite a longish line and not-very-toddler-friendly environment, she did great. I scrapped plans to go to the grocery store afterward and let her play at a playground outside our voting location instead. Spontaneity! I did it! High five!

The next day, of course, with no plan in place, we kind of just mucked around the house, waited way too long to escape for that scrapped grocery trip, and battled grumpiness all around. Win some, lose some, I guess.

But it's those days when we unexpectedly find fun that are nurturing my hidden (deeply, deeply hidden) spontaneous side, and I can feel myself losing a bit of my fear of the unknown. Nora learns a lot from me when I take her to places like a voting site (assuming she's listening to my lectures about democracy and women's suffrage – ha!), but here's just another example among many in which I'm learning from her. Chill out, mom, and just let the day happen to you, is the lesson here. The Zen of toddlerhood. Deep breaths. I can do this. And I didn't even plan to.<