As a new parent, I learned quickly to have a plan and to be prepared for it to change. Because that’s what kids do — they change your plans. I love having a plan. I even like having a few plans with a few different possible outcomes so I can prepare for each one.
Perhaps this is a result of growing up with those Choose Your Own Adventure books. My childhood was just like those books, and parenting has turned out to be too. You dressed your baby in that perfect outfit, but she just spit up all over it? Turn to page 40 if you brought another outfit and can change her; turn to page 14 if she’s OK to just hang out in a diaper while the outfit dries.
Life with kids feels like always choosing an adventure. We’re always choosing the next page, not really knowing what adventure awaits. I’ve learned that I have more options of pages to turn to if I’m prepared. I learned to carry a bigger bag.
When she was a baby, I carried extra outfits, diapers, toys and layers of plans that would all inevitably change by a surprise nap or visit from a friend. These days, I carry an iPad, notebook, markers, books and snacks. The plans I make are loose; the bag I carry is heavier.
When I couldn’t find time to read, I started carrying a book in my back pocket. Waiting in line for a coffee, waiting at school pickup, arriving too early to a meeting — suddenly I had the time to read.
When I couldn’t find the time to run, I started carrying my gym bag. Now I’ve found that running a quick mile as a break in my workday is my new favorite time to run. It gives me a break, clears my head, moves my body after sitting at a desk.
When I couldn’t find the time to write, I bought a package of three small notebooks and put one in my pocket (my pockets are pretty full), one in my car and one in my bag. I still struggle to find time for longer periods of writing but find myself writing poetry throughout the day, which I never thought I had time for.
Seth Godin talks about the “abundance economy,” in which we have most of what we need but don’t have enough connection and time. Yes. More time, more connection and a bigger bag. Parents especially don’t have time. We don’t have time to take a day off, be sick, go on a date or finish the to-do list. There’s just too much to do and not enough time to get it done.
When we start to see parenting as a Choose Your Own Adventure book, prepared for all the things we want, prepared for all that could happen, we may find that time hidden in unexpected places.