I’m sitting in my living room with my coffee, my computer, the dog at my feet, and the Christmas tree providing the only light in the early morning darkness. I am working on some goals and resolutions for 2022, feeling hopeful that I can start the year with more patience and mindfulness. The Christmas gifts – books and LEGOs and games – are no longer strewn all over the floor, and now have homes in bedrooms and on shelves. I feel something rare… peace.
I take a deep inhale and as I breathe out… A creak on the floor above my head. Voices – soft, and soon to be louder. Some giggling, some stretching noises, and then, of course, a smack. An “ouch, why did you hit me?” A growling and rustling and banging, and then “MOMMY!!!”. A door slams, feet stomp in the hallway and scurry down the stairs directly behind my head. And then:
“He hit me!”
“Can I have a playdate?”
“Can I paint?”
“Can I do a science experiment?”
“Where is my LEGO Spiderman’s head?”
“How many days until my birthday? Easter? Next Christmas?”
“I’m still hungry!”
“He hit me again!”
In the playroom next to me, there is the clatter of the LEGO and Magnatile bins getting dumped out. Mike, my husband, stumbles down the stairs. I can hear him in the kitchen getting out his bread-making supplies and I prepare for the formerly tidy kitchen to soon be coated in flour and dough and parchment paper scraps. And I remember that we are quarantined pending Covid results, so we won’t be going anywhere today.
The real day has begun. There are breakfasts to make and questions to answer and toys to find and arguments to referee. I put on my proverbial whirling dervish attire and start to do all the things.
This is life. Some days I own it. I twirl around feeling like I must have an extra set of arms, and thinking “Damn, I’ve got this DOWN”. And there are the days when the kids’ demands come faster than my coffee intake can keep up with and I feel like I can’t possibly survive until lunch.
The saving grace on the hard days (and perhaps a reason for the good ones) is that I have built systems and structures to create a baseline for functionality. My small kitchen has a flow that allows the kids to get their own water and bowls without tripping over the dishwasher while I unload it, all of Mike’s breadmaking supplies have one open bin they can get easily tossed into once the deliciousness is in the oven (an example of a system that is manageable for the individual), each kid’s hats/gloves/masks/shoes live in their own spots so they are not rifling through dozens to find what they need. Each system is small on its own, but holistically they work together help the chaos be a bit more contained.
It’s an ongoing process. I am often tweaking things as our needs and routines change (remember when we didn’t need a spot for masks?). But much like editing a first draft, the tweaking is simple when I have a baseline that works. So, friends and readers, I encourage you all to start off this new year identifying a few of the areas of your home and routine that just don’t work and trying something new. Little improvements, even as simple as relocating where you keep your coffee cups or where the kids dump their back packs, can start to create a pathway to more efficiency, less chaos, and a more opportunities for carving out moments of peace.