I am an “all-or-nothing” person. I admit it. There is little in my life that is truly done in moderation. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may have already realized this, and may have even noticed that I have been in a “nothing” phase for the last couple of months.
I don’t really know why I am like this. It would be so much easier if I could just blame it on being a Gemini—you know, the whole dual personality thing. I mean, most of the time, it is like I am made up of two entirely separate people, each one vying for control of my everyday life.
The one half of me—the one that usually shows up around 6 AM and lasts until about 5:00—is my Type A Persona. Let’s call her “Elizabeth” (I’d use Erin but I find it impossible to talk about myself in the 3rd person, so I’ll use my seldom-used middle name). Elizabeth loves structure and organization, and wouldn’t be able to survive without an up-to-date calendar. I admire Elizabeth. She is the one who keeps me employed, who prevents my children from being late for school, and who keeps the whole family in clean underwear. Elizabeth likes to have a plan, each moment of the day scheduled down to the very last minute. For Elizabeth, multi-tasking is essential, and each task is performed with the utmost efficiency. In Elizabeth’s mind, there is no greater waste of time than staring at a grocery store shelf trying to decide which brand of olives to buy.
I have found that Elizabeth sticks around until just after work, her departure usually coinciding with the arrival of my children. When confronted with an endless barrage of questions, from “Where is all of my dance stuff?” to “Do we really have to have that for dinner?” the strong convictions of this thoughtful, organized part of me slowly begins to ebb, and my other half steps in.
Meet Lizzy. [Yes, short for Elizabeth, it’s not easy naming one’s inner selves.] It wouldn’t be fair to simply describe Lizzy as lazy or a procrastinator, although it wouldn’t be far off. I, however, prefer to think of her as spontaneous, maybe even a little fun-loving. Her answer to the question “What’s for dinner?” would either be “Feed yourselves!” or “Let’s run to Boston Market.” Lizzy seems to look for any excuse to throw the schedule out the window. Even the writing of this blog is a victim of Lizzy’s whimsy. For example, this post was started during a scheduled time with a scheduled deadline, but instead of finishing it, as soon as it was Lizzy’s turn to describe her laid-back tendencies, she decided it would be more fun to walk around the track during my son’s football practice.
One of the hardest parts about having two distinct—and entirely different—parts of myself is, not knowing which one is going to have the greater influence over my children. My assumption has always been that Elizabeth is the one they should to aspire to be like. It’s hard to disagree with the fact that my children will have a greater chance of being successful if they live organized and structured lives, and that procrastination could be their greatest downfall. As much as I see the virtue in enjoying life, I can’t help but think that it might be best if pleasure only occurred after your “to-do” list was at least partially complete.
When I look at my daughter, I worry that Lizzy may ultimately win-out, as I can see the evidence of her stronghold on my daughter’s daily life. At the age of twelve, she is already quite the procrastinator. This may not seem all that problematic for someone whose homework only takes fifteen minutes to complete. However, I can’t help but fast-forward a few years when she will suddenly have to juggle writing essays, studying for tests, and completing hours of homework each week, all while trying to still have a social life. I want to teach her to plan ahead, and budget her time so that she doesn’t feel overwhelmed by all that she has to accomplish.
I guess if I were being honest, I would have to say that I don’t want my daughter to be high-strung or neurotic about every detail of her life—like Elizabeth on a bad day. I want her to have aspects of Lizzy—her spontaneity and relaxed nature—and to enjoy life without worrying that she has forgotten to cross an item off her to-do list.
I think that one of the hardest parts of being a parent is seeing yourself reflected in your child’s actions, especially those that we are less-then-proud-of. When I see my daughter delay doing something—like studying for a test until the night before—I can see myself doing the same thing. More times than I care to admit, I have found myself throwing clothes into a suitcase minutes before having to leave the house, watching television instead of writing in my blog, or chatting on the phone rather than reading the book collecting dust on the table.
I guess the answer to all of this is balance. Finding the balance that will show both of my children that they can find as much pleasure in accomplishing important tasks as they can in enjoying a lazy day in bed. My advice for my daughter is to try to find the balance that works for her, and hopefully when she is older she won’t find that she also has two inner-personalities duking it out for control of her everyday life.