An old dog can be taught new tricks. By a 3-year-old.
I live by schedules and lists. I write down what I need to do every day, packing my schedule to overflowing with hardly a minute of unobligated time.
It's the way I get things done. That's what life's about, isn't it? Getting things done.
And the person who gets the most things done somehow wins. I'm not sure what that is, unless maybe a quicker entrance to the next life.
So anyway, I write lists, even for weekends. Otherwise, I might be caught with an hour of time and nothing to pack into it. I don't know what I'd do with that.
But I would if I was 3 years old.
A 3-year-old stayed with me last weekend. I tended her while her momma and daddy went on a short vacation. I jumped at the chance.
I thought maybe we'd work on her ABC's or 123's. We could color, read books, make stuff out of paper and glue and glitter and stickers. We could go visit the library. We could go to the store.
In other words, I made up a list of the things we'd get done during the one evening she was here. But the thing is, she's too young to read a list. And she's 3 years old. Which meant that everything we did was at 3-year-old speed.
To put it mildly, my galloping, headlong dash came to a screeching halt. Because 3-year-olds have their own speed, and the rule is: You cannot hurry a 3-year-old.
Eating a meal is usually an annoying interruption to me. I eat cereal in the car on my way to work each morning. I eat lunch at my desk. I eat dinner with my husband -- the one meal that kind of looks like a normal meal.
But a meal with a 3-year-old can last almost until the next meal. Why? Because she likes to taste her food, to slowly chew it, to pick around in it as she decides her next bite.
And she likes to talk while she eats. She talks about everyone and everything. And she's so darned pleased to have me listening to her that she talks non-stop.
Unburdened by any social obligation to segue from topic to topic, her chatter is astonishingly random. She talks so long that I ask her if she's still hungry. She tells me she is. And she wants some juice. And do I have any peaches. I get them while she goes back to her story about an elephant and a giraffe.
More than an hour is consumed along with the eggs, toast, juice and peaches. My own toast and eggs were gone an hour ago, and I've sat there stifling the screams in my head that I should be doing something with this time.
She is slowly reconditioning me to realize that listening with my eyes and ears to a 3-year-old IS doing something with my time.
We get her dressed. It takes us a good 15 minutes. I compare it with the under-a-minute art I've perfected of getting myself dressed and I realize there's something to be said for taking your time to do what needs to be done. I'm starting to wonder why faster is better.
The entire day goes like this. It's time to go to the store, which usually means pick up my purse and keys and rush out the door.
But she's jettisoned her shoes and socks, so this time it means find the shoes and socks, get them on, ask "Do you have to go potty" and then wait while she does, find her coat, get it on, find her doll who absolutely must accompany her, walk out to the car at her short-legged pace, buckle her into her car seat, and finally slide in behind the wheel. My normal 2-minute exit is now 22 minutes. To the tune of another animal story.
We repeat this over and over.
Everything -- I mean everything -- takes twice or three times as long to accomplish.
The galloping part of me is going slowly crazy, because I am not "getting things done." But somewhere in my brain is a memory slowly surfacing that what I'm doing right now with her is what I used to do all day long, every day with my own little ones.
Back then, even with the hands-on needs and demands of four little ones, I moved at a quiet, calmer pace. Back then, I actually found joy in slowly moving through the days with them.
A little 3-year-old is reminding me that back then, I really did know what was important. And it was not the stuff on my list.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.