The Clock

I don’t have time to look in the mirror. – My friend, K.

About a month ago, I was out for dinner with a couple of friends, and we were commiserating over the general dearth of unallocated time in all of our lives. Although, really, God knows what I have to complain about, they’ve both got demanding jobs in addition to the houses and the kids to manage. I’m just at home with a toddler. Oh wait, the toddler bit evens things out. Just kidding. Maybe.

Anyway, my friends and I were talking about this situation: You’re out, and you happen to glance in the mirror, at which point you make the horrifying discovery that you’ve let some essential grooming task slip by the wayside. (In this case: eyebrow maintenance.) Hence the above comment about not having enough time to look in the mirror. Whether or not it’s true, these things just so often feel that way, as when I recently told my dental hygienist that I don’t have enough time to floss. She just looked at me skeptically and laughed. With good reason, I guess. I mean, really, surely I can find those extra five minutes or less in the day to just floss. The real issue, as with so many of these things, is the when. Flossing, unlike say, reading a magazine, is obviously a place-dependent task, you can’t just do it anywhere. So if it doesn’t happen in the correct place, it probably isn’t going to happen for the rest of the day.

Currently, I wish that there were about 6 more hours on the face of the clock that I’m always racing against. Maybe in those hours I could finally get all the laundry put away or bang out another chapter of the book I’ve been grinding away at for years. Or, I could actually read the novel that I tell people I’m reading in order to sound smart. Or, I could floss. Or, I could just get out of the bloody house on time in the mornings, and not feel like I’m about to expire from a massive coronary event just because my toddler doesn’t want to wear her socks.

I don’t know what your mornings are like, but lately our starts have been, shall we say, frenetic. 

I don’t want to completely blame the toddler, but the morning sprint out the door is almost entirely her fault. Because the wee ones make getting things done in a timely fashion a huge exercise in frustration. My son, at the age of 8, is practically a grown-up. He can make his own toast, he can pack his snacks for school, go get dressed and brush his teeth. He will definitely get distracted, and need some reminders to stay on task, but overall, I give him a thumbs-up for morning preparedness.

In truth, my time management skills just kind of suck. I feel okay telling you that, because this isn’t a job interview. My husband didn’t give me the nickname Last-Minute Lucy for nothing. Every single day, I go from sipping coffee and feeling that we’ve got all the time in the world, to suddenly realizing that we’ve got ten minutes to exit the front door. Which results in much dashing around and finding of jackets, boots, sippy cups, diapers, etc., whilst barking orders like a drill-sargeant and wrestling with the toddler.

Back to Lark for a moment. Two-year olds, am I right? They just love to block us from doing what needs to be done. It is so hilarious, isn’t it, to wriggle away and run off while your diaper is being changed. It is also very fun to refuse to put on a winter hat, or insist, “I walk for little bit” and try to climb out of the stroller when you’ve only gone 10 ft of the 1 km walk to school.

Apparently, toddlers don’t know how to tell time. So the sentence, “First you have to sit down in your car seat, then we can go to our doctor’s appointment,” is meaningless to them. I feel the frazzle rising as I calmly continue to request that bum goes in seat. Some days, with no particular agenda, I’m able to spend 20 minutes parked in front of my son’s school, trying to convince Lark that getting in her car seat is a good idea. As she laughs and clambers around the back seat of the car. Most of the time, though, we’ve got places to be. Sure, those places might just be music class or toddler gymnastics, but I despise being late. At some point, I resort to yelling or bribery. Yelling doesn’t work. Bribery: mixed results.

In reading this over, it’s become obvious to me that what I need are a couple more toddler-free hours in the day. As much as I hate to admit it, I know when those hours are too. The most productive people I know get up earlier than they need to, to get a jump-start on the day. One of my best friends, (who is a supremely organized individual) wakes up at 5:ish each day in order to squeeze in an hour or so of work-before-work and an hour of tutoring with her kids. Yeah, she’s kind of amazing that way. A little while ago, I wrote a post about getting up early, but my enthusiasm about doing so has waned. Now that the mornings are dark forever, it feels much more sensible to be lying in bed at 5:30. Especially if the sleep had has been of a low calibre.

But maybe I have to admit to myself that saying, “I don’t have time to do that” really translates to, “I’d rather be sleeping.” Also, I recently read a thing by this woman who claims to have changed her life by getting up at 5:00. She has scheduled the hours of five to eight as her time to get work done. But she needs that time to be kid-free, so the rule in their house is that the children must stay in their rooms until 8:00, at which point they are allowed downstairs. These measures seem draconian but also, admittedly, appealing.

I have this amazing vision of my toddler happily playing in her room while I quietly work on my novel downstairs. Every morning! While I’m at it I can throw in a yoga routine or learn to speak Cantonese or all the other things I say I “want” to do with my life. Hmmm, how to make this happen… baby gates, padlocks, Smarties and noise-cancelling headphones? This experiment requires more research. I’ll report back with results.