I am what you call Type-A. This means that I don’t do things like “going with the flow” or “rolling with the punches” very well. Though I have tried my entire life to remain rooted firmly in the present, this feat seems as challenging as climbing Mount Everest.
I have a love/hate relationship with this part of myself. For instance, I am exceptionally conscientious, efficient, organized and detail-oriented. I am a boss’s dream employee, turning in triple-checked assignments well before their deadlines, as well as a stellar student. Yet at the same time, these very traits that make me so reliable and responsible also prevent me from simply rolling with and enjoying life. I don’t live in the here-and-now. Rather, my mental home exists in the future; my brain is constantly organizing and re-organizing the events of each day, and determining which tasks must be completed next.
As one can well imagine, this leaves little time for enjoying the present, and though I appreciate my productivity, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to prevent my over-thinking Type-A brain from hijacking my moments of pleasure and relaxation.
Then something happened that rocked my rigid world: I had children. First a singleton, now four, and then – surprise! – twins, now 10-months-old. And as parents everywhere can attest, kids don’t care about orderly houses, always being prepared, or putting toys away in photo-labeled bins (yes, I actually have these!).
Don’t get me wrong; having children was certainly part of the plan (though a twin pregnancy was quite the shocker!). But what I idiotically didn’t account for was that REAL children, unlike my litter of childhood baby dolls, would have their own set of needs that, often times, prevent me from meeting my own (i.e. brushing my teeth, getting dressed, going to the bathroom…). Suddenly, my tidy (and hygienic) house transformed into a cluttered, chaotic mess. The mountain of laundry began to build, and the fridge, once a place where groceries lived, converted into a cold, vacant space. I simply couldn’t find the time to check any non-baby related items off my to-do list, and for the first time in my life, I missed deadlines, spaced on appointments, and actually forgot my mother’s birthday. Sorry, Mom! I was horrified; was this what life was going to be like from now on? I just couldn’t figure out how to take care of three small children, while also remaining on top of everything.
Even worse was that when I did manage to implement routines and order back into our lives again, I was only able to focus on tasks and schedules, as opposed to enjoying the precious moments with my kids. I knew this was a problem – it was causing me anxiety and making me tremendously sad – but as in years past, I didn’t know how to fix it. I’ve practiced yoga and meditation, and inhaled and exhaled as slowly and deeply as my diaphragm allows. Yet my racing, task-oriented, future-focused brain always seems to win out.
When it comes to parenting a preschooler and multiples, there are perks to my meticulous ways. Our family always knows what’s on the agenda for the week because I remind them repeatedly and jot it down on a giant whiteboard each Sunday. As soon as we receive an invitation to a birthday party, I immediately purchase and wrap the gift so we don’t accidentally forget. And really, you can insert any number of anal traits here, because I probably possess them and make my family’s life easier (and more difficult!) with them!
I am the yin to my husband’s yang. Though he sometimes (okay, many times) complains about my inability to be more laid-back, he also appreciates that he doesn’t have to think much about the details of our daily lives. I do it for all of us!
Yes, there are perks, but there are also downfalls. I am sure other Type-A parents will understand this conundrum. As much as I want to let the little things go – ignore the baby food smeared across my table, and save washing bottles until the end of the day so I can spend the daylight hours enjoying my kids – I literally cannot. I’ve tried, but it causes me an immense amount of angst. When I put a task off until later, it’s ALL I can think about until I am finally able to get it done. That’s not staying in the moment, is it? So by my calculation, I might as well just do whatever needs to be done, and THEN focus on being “here and now” with my special three. Except for that it’s never just done. As parents everywhere can also attest, there’s always something more to do. So the challenge persists.
I am aware that if I don’t start being present for these little and big moments, the years will pass and before I know it my kids will be grown, and I will look back with regret. So how do I fix this? Will I ever be able to reform myself, even a smidge? Learn to veer off routine, or leave the house a bit messy if it means making more memories? I hope so.
Here’s what I do know: my Type-A’ness may at times be my fatal flaw, but it’s also what makes me prepared and reliable. I love this part of me and don’t view this as a bad thing, as long as I can learn to be flexible and adaptable too. This is crucial – not just for me, but also for my kids. I want them to be reliable, of course, but not rigid. I want them to actually LIVE their lives, and not miss the sparkling moments because they are planning for every possible outcome to any given situation at every single moment of the day. I want them to be flexible and adaptable.
Maybe that’s the answer. It’s not about completely overhauling my Type-A personality to be someone who’s more able to go with the flow and live in the moment (though it would be nice to be able to do this more!). But rather, teaching myself—and, in turn, my kids—resilience when things don’t go exactly as planned. That’s just what I intend to do.
Marissa Kristal is a Minneapolis-based writer and mama to a set of twins and a singleton. We all have a narrative, and she is passionate about sharing her life’s stories in an effort to bridge the gaps between people, expose our similarities, and increase acceptance of one another.To read more from Marissa check out her personal blog here: www.lilgooshx3.blogspot.com
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